‘One O’Clock’ Kids’ Play Clubs Saved!

For the last six months Wandsworth’s Labour Councillors and Sadiq Khan MP have been working hard with parents and carers to fight the council’s plans for the  closure of One O’clock play clubs.

One O'clock Clubs Demo

Those of you who have ever been along to a One O’Clock Club will know what a vital resource they are in our community – providing the much-needed opportunity to talk with other parents in an environment where children can play safely. That’s why local parents were outraged when the council first announced their plans to close the clubs in January.

Parents have campaigned, signed petitions and marched through the streets of Wandsworth in opposition to the cuts. The good news is that at a town hall meeting this week the Tories backed down:  Stay and Play has been saved at all centres except Battersea Park, nursery workers at Windmill, Bolingbroke, and Coronation Gardens jobs have been saved and charges will be kept affordable. But despite support from independents on the committee, Labour’s amendment to cap charges at £1 was defeated by the Tories.

We have come such a long way. When the plans were first announced the council wanted to close the afternoon clubs completely: but now, thanks to a fantastic campaign, families will be able to use the clubs in the afternoon and access the outdoor space for free in the late afternoons and at weekends.

Labour Education Speaker Cllr. Sheila Boswell said: ‘All in all an innovative campaign with a powerful alliance between ‘Nappy Valley’ parents, Battersea and Wandsworth  trade unions, Labour Councillors and Tooting’s Labour MP.  There is a lot to be proud of.’

Links:

Wandsworth Guardian

http://www.wandsworthguardian.co.uk/news/10500733.Nappy_Valley_mums_disappointed_at_children_s_services_charges/

Nappy Valley Parents

http://www.nappyvalleynet.com/mums/search.php?keywords=One+O%27clock&sid=02a5ce38215c87d614468caff8e61a24

Wandsworth Unions

http://www.bwtuc.org.uk/default.aspx

Wandsworth adventure playgrounds could be privatised

Re-posted from the Wandsworth Guardian

Adventure playgrounds in York Gardens and Kimber Road Gardens could be privatised, but the council has scotched rumours that they may be closed. Cash-strapped Wandsworth Council confirmed on Tuesday that “at this stage there are no proposals to close any of them” – a statement welcomed by campaigners determined to protect all three of the borough’s adventure playgrounds. However, a council spokesman said talks are underway to transfer the two playgrounds to new providers and it is talking to users of Battersea Park adventure playground about how it can be run on a reduced budget.

Read the full story here:

http://www.yourlocalguardian.co.uk/news/local/wandsworthnews/9324619.Adventure_playgrounds_could_be_privatised/

 

Council Calls In Police To Halt Peaceful Pay2Play Protest

 By our man in Battersea Park

Wednesday seemed like the perfect day to go to Battersea Park to continue our ‘No pay to play’ campaign. It was national ‘Playday’ – a celebration of the child’s right to play – so what better time to remind everybody that the Tory council in Wandsworth are still hell-bent on charging children £2.50 to use the adventure playground in the park. It was of course an added bonus for us that the council’s Play and Community Services department (the very people trying to charge the children and certainly a department in the running for hypocrites of the year award) had arranged an event right next to the adventure playground in honour of the day.

The morning got off to a wonderful start and with the sun beaming, posters printed, flyers made, petitions on clipboards, drinks and snacks ready, Jack and I set off to the park (poor young Jack carrying the pasting table full of posters and flyers all the way there…and back). We arrived just before twelve midday, I went to the Parks Office (I had been advised to do this) to let them know we were there and what we planned on doing, the lovely lady there said it was fine so we set up our beautiful stall.

Unfortunately, the people from the council weren’t too pleased about this, Kathy Tracey – Cabinet Member for Education – was due any minute and they felt it wasn’t really the look they were going for, so they decided the best course of action was to call the police. In fact not only did they call the police but they told them there was a ‘group protest’ taking place without stating any numbers. Next thing we knew three police cars turned up and they had us surrounded…  I explained to them they were just in time as we were about to start kicking bins over!

After what was a lot of fussing I am now the proud owner of a Wandsworth Parks Constabulary Bye-laws Handbook, which basically points out that you cannot to anything, and I mean anything, for example “no person shall….take part in any public assemblage in any park, garden or open space” – which seems a little unfair, no more family picnics I’m afraid! Also “no person shall… enter in to any public discussion or cause” and “no person shall distribute any bill, placard, or other printed or written matter” – I’m afraid with their mighty bye-laws handbook they had us beat. But we weren’t going to let that stop us; there is certainly nothing about what you can wear…

 By this point a couple of the Women of Wandsworth mums had joined us, we were forced to take down the table and pack up but then the police left so we all put posters on our backs, and engaged in public discussion (i.e. we went round collecting signatures pointing at Kathy Tracey, saying it was all her fault and they called the police on us for trying to demonstrate) Everybody was on our side, we got over 100 signatures and really got up some noses, so all in all a good day I’d say – we were just lucky to get out of there without being kettled!

For more information on ‘No pay to play’ please visit http://wesaynopay2play.com

National Playday event – next to Pay2Play playground!

Playday is holding a playday tomorrow –  next to the Battersea Park Adventure Playground, for which the Council may still start charging children to play on the equipment. Playday is a celebration of children’s right to play, and a campaign that highlights the importance of play in children’s lives. 

The event is taking place at Battersea Park ( adjacent to the adventure playground) from 12noon until 4pm. The Mayor will be visiting about 1pm. The Council says ‘The event is specifically to celebrate play and its benefits and to encourage parents and carers and children to play together.’

On offer is a range of traditional games and activities encouraging healthy competition between spots and stripes delivered by Groundwork, e.g. sack races, tug-o-war, egg and spoon races and lots more. 

  •  Stilt walking and balloon crafting/magic show and dancing competition by Bertie and Boo 
  •  Circus Skills – Press Play 
  •  Balloon crafting – Lord Geoffrey the Balloon Man 
  •  Healthy Eating Workshop – Mange Tout 
  •  Drumming workshop 
  •  Face painting 
  •  Parachute games
  • Long rope skipping
  • Arts and crafts -(handprint a giant Playday logo!)
  • Multi sport activities

Wandsworth in Sure Start Closures Row

Wandsworth is embroiled in a row with Whitehall after claims that the council has closed four Sure Start centres. Articles in the New Statesman and the Independent cite a freedom of information answer which states Wandsworth has closed the Centres.

The Council was originally given a target of  23 Sure Start centres but revised this down to 20. So far 19 are operating and one in Thamesfield ward is being developed with the local NHS. This may end up being a shared project with Granard and West Hill Children’s Centres.

The Council has closed one centre for children with special needs in Earlsfield, but has placed current users in alternative settings. Labour supported petitioners in a plea to keep the centre open for future users but the Tories voted to go ahead with the closure.

 Meanwhile the Tory-led government is watering down Labour’s Sure start policy by reviewing the ‘core purpose’ of the centres, the inspection framework and the ‘sufficiency’ requirements: ie the standard of service.

Sure Start is one of the most important social policies introduced by the last Labour government. Studies have shown that similar projects in other countries have a long-term positive impact on children’s learning and their opportunities as adults.

For more read here:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/31-surestart-centres-close-2327370.html

http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2011/08/sure-start-centres-cameron

Battersea Park Playground – Tories Threaten Cuts And May Still Bring In Charges

Despite a retreat last week over charges for children to use Battersea Park Adventure Playground, the plans are not dead yet. In an interview with the Wandsworth Guardian Kathy Tracey, the council’s children’s services spokeswoman, said the Tories may still introduce a fee to use the specialist playground.

She said a survey will be carried out over the summer months asking users what cost-cutting measures they approved of, before a report is published in November. Coun Tracey added that one possible way to save cash would be to remove some of the more expensive equipment, which needs staffing. She added: “If they want to maintain the sort of provision that’s there, we have to find a mechanism for charging for it.”

Labour’s Cllr. Andy Gibbons said ‘Coming just days before the Thamesfield by-election the Tories’ announcement of a retreat on playground charges now looks like a cynical attempt to hide an unpopular and damaging policy, only to bring it back later. We must keep the pressure up to make sure that these proposals are ruled out completely.’

Read the full story here:

http://www.wandsworthguardian.co.uk/news/9124540.Playground_fee__could_still_be_introduced/

WANDSWORTH BACKS DOWN ON CHARGING FOR ADVENTURE PLAYGROUND

Wandsworth Borough Council made a decision on 28 February at its Executive Committee to introduce a charge of £2.50 per child for entry to Battersea Adventure Playground.  This was due to come into effect on 2 July 2011.  

A letter before claim threatening to issue judicial review proceedings was sent on behalf of five families, arguing that the decision was unlawful: first on grounds that there was a failure to consult with local residents about the scheme; second that the council had failed to have regard to its equalities duties.  Ms Saimo Chahal of Bindmans law firm argued that the initial Equality Impact Assessment was superficial, flawed and reaches conclusions which are unreasonable.  Whilst the council recognise that 45% of users are from the BME community, the Equality Impact Assessment goes on to state that the charging is not expected to have any adverse impact on BME users. Third it was argued that the , the council have failed to have any regard to the fact that the parents and children who would be disadvantaged by the proposed charging were all from a socio economic group which could not afford to pay for the charges, whilst the council have proceeded on the basis that the proposal will not have any impact on  lower income families.  The conclusions were irrational. Finally, it was also argued that there was a lack of transparency in the procedure and processes involved in reaching the decision to charge for the Adventure Playground. The council were given until 4pm on 28 June to respond.

 The council backs down

The council has responded, agreeing not to implement the pilot scheme on 2 July. Saimo Chahal, Partner at Bindmans LLP acting for the families said: “The council had pushed through this decision with a total disregard for  the views of children and parents in the Borough.  Their assessment of the impact of the charges was superficial and flawed, showing a complete lack of understanding about why the playground played such a pivotal role in the lives of children in the borough and why play is so important for the most deprived children in the borough.  Furthermore the Council ignored evidence showing that in the borough 26% of children under 16 live in poverty and children in some age groups have a higher than average level of obesity.   The decision verged on the irrational.   I am very pleased indeed that the council has decided to review its decision and not to implement the charges.  This is a very sensible decision.”

Local resident Sojourner Jones said: “Today’s decision by the council not to implement the charge to use the adventure playground at Battersea Park is without a doubt a victory for common sense. Whilst the £2.50 the council intended to charge is less than many pay for a coffee in a trendy café bar, for many families in the borough, with two, three or four children it would  have meant the difference between a summer spent cooped up indoors and one spent out in the fresh air. Whilst I fully appreciate local authorities such as ours have to make cuts in line with government directives, I am really pleased that my council has decided that taxing children to play would have been a step too far.”

Read the Evening Standard’s story here:

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23965866-councils-u-turn-on-pound-250-park-fee.do

 

Tory Councillors Reject Mother’s Pay2Play Plea

On Tuesday night at the Town Hall Councillors heard a heartfelt plea from a local mother describing the effect of the £2.50 charge for the use of Battersea Park Adventure Playground on her child and other local families, especially those on low incomes.

Despite more than 1000 signatories against the pilot scheme and a deputation of local mothers at Tuesday night’s Education and Children’s Services OSC, the Tories refused to reconsider the decision to start the pilot to charge for the use of the Playground, so the £2.50 charge will start on July 2nd.

 Labour councillor Simon Hogg addressed the committee on behalf of the petitioners against the plans: “Collecting the signatures was straightforward. We haven’t had to spin the issue: it is fully understood and wildly unpopular’ People who would not normally talk to us have literally crossed the road to sign – including at least one Tory councillor’s wife.”

Opposition Speaker on the committee, Labour councillor Wendy Speck gave the case for the Health and Education benefits of the Adventure Playground and its uniqueness in providing a space to develop a variety of learning skills and promote good health. She ‘The pilot to charge for the use of the park is depriving the most vulnerable in the area from taking up these opportunities and restricting it to those who can afford to pay. It is a special setting which provides an adventurous experience where fears are overcome, potential realised, talent discovered through play opportunities.’

‘Battersea Adventure Playground has had free access since its start and there must be other ways of securing its future, including increasing charges for corporate users of the park like bankers JP Morgan Chase, The Independent Schools’ Show and The Designer Wedding Show.’