Local residents and councillors are taking matters into their own hands as Tower Hamlets council abandon public flowerbeds to save money.
Three flowerbeds at St. Matthews Church Yard have been abandoned this autumn, as a cost cutting measure by the council. On Saturday November 17, The East London Garden Society gathered at the church yard to urge local people to clear up the flowerbeds and put them back in to use.
The reduction of 17.9% in funding from the Government in 2012/2013, resulted in gardening cuts by Tower Hamlets council.
Geoff Juden, founder of East London Garden Society and a Bethnal Green resident, said: “I was furious, absolutely furious, when I heard about the cuts.”
Spending the day clearing away autumn leaves and turning over the soil before snowfall, the volunteers are preparing for next spring’s flower planting.
Joshua Peck, Labour Councillor for Bow West, is spending his Saturday helping the group.
He said: ”Flowerbeds are really what people loved about parks, so I am very happy to be here, to make sure they are still here for people to enjoy. I think these cost cuts are a shame and this is a great example of a community coming together when the council is failing.”
A council spokesperson said: “The council works hard to keep the borough looking its best and we have been recognised for our efforts by many national organisations including the Royal Horticultural Society and Keep Britain Tidy.
“Due to the severe Government cuts we are having to look at ways where we can make savings without impacting on frontline services. One of the services we are scaling back on is maintaining flowerbeds.
“In the course of this year eight flowerbeds were identified to be grassed over where plants were badly vandalised and were not thriving due to their location out of a total of 79. This has resulted in a budget saving of £13,613.”
The governmental budget savings are not an excuse according to Peck: “There is a huge amount of waste with money being spent on things that it shouldn’t be spent on, meaning that things like flowerbeds has suffered from needless cuts.
“A lot of people are pretty fed up with that, and they are making their views known by doing things like this; taking back the flowerbeds.”
Inka Aynde, 42 a care worker from Limehouse, believes public green spaces to be very important for peoples wellbeing.
He said: “I am volunteering because it is good for the neighbourhood to have something looking decent. A lot of people walk through this park every day; it is for them we are putting in the effort.”
John Pierce, Labour Councillor for Weavers, showed up to volunteer as well.
He said: “Everyone needs an outdoors space. To have stuff like flower beds is really important, it brings the people together and that’s what we want in this area. It is a tough economic environment for all councils, however we need to get our priorities right. I think it is really unfair on the local residents to grass over flowerbeds.”
On the importance of three flowerbeds in St. Matthews Churchyard, Juden said: “When you start thinking about that the council have cut flower beds, then who knows, maybe next gardens, and then you think about how society starts changing. Public green spaces bring the whole community together. People want to be involved, they want to be able to say ‘yeah let’s get the community together let’s do some gardening or grow vegetables’.”
East London Garden Society was founded 23 September 2011 by Geoff Juden, to help communities through gardening and promotes public green spaces. The society has 40 members across London and many cooperation partners providing equipment for events such as this one.