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South London councils call for end to £12m levy to fund north London park 20.03.12

A coalition of south London councils is calling for an end to a historic levy that forces local council tax payers to fund a north London park more than 20 miles away.

The precept, added to council tax bills across London, props up the Lee Valley Regional Park, despite many south Londoners never having visited, or even heard of the park, which runs through north and east London, Essex and Hertfordshire. Taxpayers in London have paid the levy since an Act of Parliament was passed in 1966.

Sutton, for example, funds the park to the tune of £200,000 a year, while councils across London stump up a total of £12m. The levy hits four South London boroughs (Sutton, Wandsworth, Merton and Croydon) particularly hard as they are working to establish a local regional park along South London's Wandle Valley.

This year's levy was two per cent less than expected, freeing up thousands of pounds of subsidy, but local authorities across south London are calling for the precept to be scrapped altogether.

Cllr Jayne McCoy, of Sutton Council, who is the Chair of the Wandle Valley Regional Park Development Board, said:

"We want the unfair legislation on this precept changed. When funds are tight it is hard to stomach handing over large sums of money to a distant park whilst we're struggling to find the cash to support our own regional park in south London.

"The Lee Valley Park Authority owns 20 per cent of the Olympic Park in Stratford and has already received millions of pounds from the Olympic Delivery Authority. They will also be handed the Olympic hockey, tennis and cycling facilities and the long term funding they bring with them.

"Sutton, Wandsworth, Merton and Croydon councils want to invest in an equal regional park for south London.  We've been able to invest thousands in it as a result of the levy reduction this year but if we can claw back the full £1.2m we pay towards Lee Valley every year it means jobs and growth where it's needed most."

Cllr Ravi Govindia, Leader of Wandsworth Council, said: "We are fully behind this campaign. There is no logic at all in demanding a large subsidy from our council taxpayers for the upkeep of a regional park that few of them will have even heard of and even fewer will ever visit when that money could be better spent establishing a new Wandle Valley park on our own doorstep." 

Leader of Merton Council, Cllr Stephen Alambritis said: "Merton Council fully supports the call for an end to the Lee Valley Regional Park levy.  All councils are going through tough economic times and we want to see our council tax payers' money invested in south London initiatives, including the Wandle Valley Regional Park."

Mike Fisher, leader of Croydon Council, said: "We send hundreds of thousands of pounds every year to help pay for the upkeep of a park that is miles from our borough. We said back in 2008 that we wanted this levy scrapped and our stance has not changed. We'd like to see the money we spend on a park in north London spent on our own parks and open spaces because they are so cherished by our residents."

Last updated: Wednesday, 11 April 2012

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