James Berry has been given leave by the House of Commons to introduce legislation to amend the Lea Valley Regional Park Act 1966, which allows the Authority running the North London park to levy all London Boroughs significant sums for its upkeep.
The Lea Valley Park’s overall levy to councils for 2017/18 is £10,186,900. Kingston Council is being required to pay £160,730 to the Park Authority – more than 10% of Kingston’s own parks budget of £1.3 million. The levy on Kingston works out to a massive £31.15 per visitor to the Park, whereas for Waltham Forrest residents, in which the Lea Valley Park sits, the levy works out to a mere 32p per visitor.
James Berry’s Bill was supported by a number of London Conservative MPs, Council Leaders and Conservative GLA members. It builds on the Surrey Comet and its sister papers’ “No To The Lea Valley Tax” campaign that won the support of South London politicians from across the political divide.
It is unlikely that the Lea Valley Regional Park 1966 (Amendment) Act will gain sufficient Parliamentary time to progress in this parliamentary session, but James Berry and other MPs will work with Ministers to try and find a solution which avoids London’s Councils being forced to pay such large sums for the upkeep of the park every year. One option would be to move to a central government funding model like that for the Royal Parks and National Parks, or for the park to be incentivised to make more revenue from the numerous Olympic sporting venues that were developed in the park at London taxpayers’ expense.
Commenting, James Berry MP said:
“Introducing this Bill is another step in the popular campaign run by our local newspaper and I was pleased that so many MPs, MLAs and Council Leaders have supported it.
Although Kingston’s Conservative Council has rightly protected our parks budget, 92% of councils have had to cut their parks budget over the last 3 years. Against this backcloth, it is not appropriate that the Lea Valley Park is funded to such a large extent by taxpayers from every London Borough, regardless of how much or how little residents from that Borough use the park.
Kingston’s taxpayers rightly ask why their council tax is being used to fund a park 20 miles away that is seldom used by Kingston residents when our own services in Kingston are under pressure.
I am a huge supporter of parks and green spaces and hope the Lea Valley Regional Park has a bright future, but its 50 year old funding model needs to change to reflect the financial position of local authorities in 2017.”
You can see a copy of James Berry’s speech delivered on 22 February 2017 here.