Letter to Editor: Has Labour scored an own goal over play equipment?

Your Say / Fri 7th Apr 2023 at 11:53am

Dear Editor,

I wonder if Cllr Jodi Dunne, when he asked his question at this week’s (6 April) full council meeting, realised that he not only exposed slack auditing of play equipment but also scored an own goal?

His question to Environment portfolio holder Cllr Nicky Purse asked: “Our play equipment is looking decidedly tired, what investment has been spent in our play parks over the last 12 months and what effect is continued cuts to local government finances from this Conservative government having on the management of our play parks and green spaces?”

Part of Cllr Purse’s answer was: “HTS commission an independent annual inspection which looks at risk on play area equipment and highlights maintenance tasks. The last full audit of play provision was 2008 under the last administration. This is now long overdue.” 

Overdue is certainly correct, but a 15 year gap, really! The own goal is what did the last Labour administration do during the years 2012 to 2021? The latter part of that period Cllr Dunne was a backbench councillor. 

Given Conservative governments repeated cuts to local authorities’ finances since 2010, what steps did Cllr Dunne and his fellow Labour councillors take to improve play equipment?

David Forman

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7 Comments for Letter to Editor: Has Labour scored an own goal over play equipment?:

Nicholas Taylor
2023-04-07 12:48:40

To be frank David I think you are getting two separate issues mixed up. As was said, there is a yearly assessment of risk carried out and I am sure that on a day to day basis repairs will be carried out when reported to the Council in view of the risk of non repair. An audit of play provision is a different matter altogether, this would involve looking at what locations are being used if only because of all the new housing developments around the town, what is being provided at each location, because some equipment may have been removed, looking at others that are no longer up to modern day standards and finally what is needed to replace lost equipment. Such audits have never been carried out on a regular basis, I remember in the 1990's a whole host of changes were made following an audit of play provision, the previous one having been carried out in the 1980's.

David Forman
2023-04-07 16:30:51

For Nicholas Taylor's benefit, I am not confused. I am talking about an audit. The Conservative administration admitted in papers presented to yesterday's full council meeting that an audit is "long overdue". Inspection is not just annual as British Standard BS EN 1176 states also requires additional routine visual and operational inspections. See page 17 of https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.cpa-horticulture.co.uk/download/WicksteedPlayStandards.pdf&ved=2ahUKEwiErs_F4Jb-AhUMV8AKHVdODbQQFnoECDAQAQ&usg=AOvVaw1Uo3jrau5qWtrHscBfY9NK

David Forman
2023-04-07 16:34:45

For Nicholas Taylor's benefit the words "long overdue" is on page 10 of https://moderngov.harlow.gov.uk/documents/b6051/Questions%20from%20the%20Public%20Youth%20Council%20and%20Councillors%2006th-Apr-2023%2019.30%20Council.pdf?T=9

Edward Vine
2023-04-07 17:20:19

Neither party comes out of this looking good. Two administrations and 15 years go by without an audit. Any incoming party in office like the Conservatives should have been onto this if it was important especially if the lack of an audit would make the council vulnerable to being sued in case of an accident or are we confusing required Health and safety and maintenance checks with an audit: counting what's there. More to the point what are each party going to do to improve and provide free and affordable play and recreational facilities because the town could do with more and better.

Nicholas Taylor
2023-04-07 22:29:10

Edward, I think you are right, an audit is nothing to do with health and safety, which is dealt with as repairs are needed when reported or are found on inspection. An audit is about play provision. Back in the 1990's this led to sites being removed, others enhanced and new types of equipment put in place. I do agree that an audit is long overdue.

Mark Gough
2023-04-08 14:02:30

For many years under Labour our playgrounds were not fit for purpose. It wasn't until I put them on a list of work for the first lot of scrutiny panels that anything was done. They didn't even meet minimal standards. Former colleagues like Cllrs. Churchill and Garnett will remember it well. We even received a report claiming work had been done when it hadn't! The main issue being them all being properly fenced off and having safe surfaces under all equipment. This should of course be fully audited and maintained year in year out! But yes, bit of a Labour own goal!!! Mark Gough - Reform UK

Nicholas Taylor
2023-04-10 10:26:24

A bit late in the day but to pick up on previous posts and to lay out the facts. Back in the 1980's the concept of LAPS, playgrounds for those under 6, LEAPS, playgrounds for more independent children and NEAPS, for older children was introduced and used by local authorities. Harlow Council carried out an AUDIT of its playgrounds which resulted in every area being given one of the above classifications, some sites were removed, others had their classification changed when new equipment was provided and others remained as they were. Mark is right that having spent a fortune on these playgrounds, as years passed by without a continued lack of investment they were in need of updating as regulations changed, new housing developments and because of fair wear and tear. I suspect that an AUDIT was carried out in 2008 to look again at playground provision across the town whilst at the same time looking at the state of the equipment provided.

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