Redundancies to permanent park keepers are “running down” the borough’s open spaces, it has been claimed.

Residents and councillors have complained about overflowing rubbish bins since Merton Council changed its policy from hiring full-time keepers for each park to employing roaming staff.

The administration has insisted the change needed to be made as part of savings because the council is getting a reduced grant from the Government this year.

But opposition councillors have called on the council to use its reserves to reinstate the park keepers.

Councillor David Dean, who represents Dundonald ward, in Wimbledon, said: "This is a deliberate council-sponsored running-down of our wonderful open space.

"It certainly isn’t a question of money. By hiking service fees massively, the Labour-run council is now running an on-going £12m budget surplus each year."

Coun Dean complained that in his ward, Dundonald Recreation Ground, contains a pavilion with public toilets that can not be opened because there is no longer a permanent park keeper.

Another resident complained South Park Gardens, in Wimbledon town centre, had become noticeably dirtier since the cutbacks, while another said the same thing about Wimbledon Park which had rubbish uncollected for weeks.

Patricia Sheerin said: “We only have a part-time keeper who, although he is brilliant, is only at Wimbledon Park for a few hours a week and you can see how much worse things have become.

“They are encouraging more people to visit Wimbledon Park after extending the car park, but who’s going to clear up the extra mess? It doesn’t make sense.”

A Merton Council spokeswoman said: “The council has changed the way park keepers work.

“Thankfully, we have not had to make any compulsory redundancies and our team of dedicated park keepers can continue to look after the borough’s parks to a high standard.”

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