A new team responsible for enforcing and locking up Havering’s parks is expected to be in place by May, the council has confirmed. 

Plans to hire the team were announced last year, not long after Havering Council's cabinet had voted to stop locking the borough's parks overnight due to financial pressures. 

Out of the 108 parks and open spaces in Havering, only 22 are able to be locked.

Cllr Paul Middleton, cabinet member for corporate, culture and leisure services, previously told the Recorder the council was spending £100,000-a-year on contractors to shut them overnight, and that the decision to halt the work was “not taken lightly”. 

When asked how the new team would operate given the council's acute financial difficulties, Cllr Middleton said they would be self-funded through enforcing littering, dog fouling, vandalism and the like. 

Cllr Middleton added that while he was “not clear” when exactly the process would end, he understood it would be up and running in the new year. 

He has now said he has been told the process remains ongoing, and that it is not likely the new team will be onboarded before May. 

“I questioned what was holding the process up,” he added. “I am awaiting a full explanation.” 

Romford Recorder: Cllr Paul MiddletonCllr Paul Middleton (Image: Havering Council)

A spokesperson for Havering Council however said the deadline was always set for spring, which it expects to meet. 

They said: “We are currently in the middle of procurement for a new parks team that will be responsible for locking the parks overnight, as well as enforcing against littering, dog fouling and vandalism.  

“There are a few details we need to iron out, but are on track to meet our spring deadline and expect the team to be in place before May.” 

Concerns about a potential rise in anti-social behaviour were raised following the council’s announcement that it would stop locking the 22 parks. 

Robert Hooper, who lives near Hylands Park in Hornchurch, described the decision as giving “carte blanche” to those wishing to do harm. 

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“We spent ages trying to get the park more secure and it’s calmed down over the years,” he said. 

The council ran a consultation last year seeking residents’ views on the future of Havering’s parks, ending on November 11. 

The feedback will be fed into a draft 10-year strategy, which is due to be presented to the council’s cabinet.