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Playground bullying

April 23, 2018 7:27 AM

Adeyfield Adventure Playground 3Quarter PosterizeConservative Dacorum Council leaders are insisting on cuts in hours and staffing at the four Adventure Playgrounds in Hemel Hempstead.

In an Liberal Democrat Opposition debate at Full Council on 18th April, Conservative Leader Cllr Andrew Williams implied there would be a need for actual full closure of one of the Adventure Playgrounds, if the staff cuts were stopped by a Motion of the Council.

EIGHT managers and deputies are being asked to compete for TWO Manager positions - not even enough to ensure a Duty Manager at each location after school, or at weekends. Lib Dems were dismayed to find that staff were to be cut so deeply and that permanent all-year round cuts to playground management costs were the real driver for the changes - originally presented as "low winter attendance".

Lib Dem Cllr Adrian England criticised the way that the measures were presented: "This was set-out in November/December as an evidence-based winter closure for rational economic reasons, given a picture of 'low-demand' during the winter months. In fact, the safeguarding management of all four playgrounds is being undermined. None of this was even outlined in the budget submissions."

Cllr England continued: "Really, how sincere are the Cabinet about keeping the Adventure Playgrounds available for the kids who use them and the communities that welcome the kids having somewhere to be after school?"

During the earlier public participation at Full Council, Cllr Andrew Williams gave a reassurance to Unison's Nalin Cooke, but in debating the Motion later, the Conservative leader Cllr Andrew Williams pointed out that a similar saving could be produced from closing one of the four playgrounds; while saying that this had been ruled out earlier in the process, the obvious implication was that they would have to consider closing one or more of the playgrounds if their will was not accepted.

Cllr England used the debate to suggest a range of additional new uses for the Adventure Playgrounds during school hours, so as to make the buildings more actively used by the whole community and support their primary use as Adventure Playgrounds.

The text of the Liberal Democrat Motion was:

"This Council believes that access to Adventure Playgrounds should be all-year-round, as they play an important role in the safeguarding of vulnerable children and contribute to the development of all children, and further believes that such provision should continue.

Conservatives criticised the Motion and refused to support it.

Labour supported the Lib Dem Motion, but it was defeated by 29 votes to 7, with 7 abstentions. 8 Councillors were absent.