The Labour Party have been protesting over a decision by Wandsworth Council to introduce charging for one of their playgrounds. The protest is pretty misleading as it implies that it concerns an ordinary playground. In fact it is the Battersea Park Adventure Playcentre, this is a fully staffed playcentre and one of three Adventure Playgrounds in the borough.
The council says:
It offers a whole range of supervised activities – including street dance and drumming workshops, music and singing tuition, arts and crafts and sports coaching.
It is the size and scale of this centre, the challenging nature of its play equipment and the fact that it requires fully trained staff on duty to keep children safe that marks it out from others.
They propose to introduce a charge of £2.50 – at weekends only, for a four month trial period. The other two adventure playgrounds in the borough would remain free.
The Labour indignation over this is thoroughly hypocritical. There are 18 Labour boroughs in London (I include Tower Hamlets with its Livingstone-backed Mayor and Merton with a minority Labour administration.) Looking down the list from the organisation London Play I see that the following Labour boroughs have no adventure playgrounds at all. Barking & Dagenham, Harrow, Hounslow and Waltham Forest. So they can't be attacked for closing or charging for adventure playgrounds – they never opened any in the first place. God's in his Heaven/All's right with the World." What a strong political position Labour politicians from those boroughs are in to attack Wandsworth.
What about Islington? They charge £2 if you want to come during the lunch hour. You don't seem to get any lunch for you £2 it is a contribution to staff costs. Would Ken Livingstone like to explain why that is morally right but Wandsworth charging is morally wrong?
Their report says:
Future play provision is likely to be targeted at supporting the most vulnerable children.
Perhaps local resident Ken Livingstone can make sense of what that is likely to mean. Does it amount to a pledge of continued free universal adventure playground provision in the borough? I think in future he might find the best bet would be to take the sprogs off to Little Wormwood Scrubs adventure playground provided by the excellent Conservative-run Kensington and Chelsea Council.
What about Greenwich? There Meridian Adventure Playground is closed on Sundays. Does Ken Livingstone think that a better option?
What about Lambeth? The Labour Council is seeking to close the oldest adventure playground in London, the Triangle Adventure Playground as they keen to have a car park instead. The playground has been given a temporary lease of 18 months but the threat continues.
What about Tower Hamlets? Both White Horse and Bartlett Park Adventure Playgrounds are closing.
By the way this is not to say that Wandsworth have made the right decision, at least in the detail. Could they not introduce an annual membership instead with cheap/free membership to local residents/local residents on low incomes? Then when people from my borough (which has some excellent regular playgrounds but no staffed Adventure Playgrounds) would be expected to pay when they visit.
I enjoyed taking my children to the zoo in Battersea Park – we did not expect to get in free. Should we expect to get in free to the Battersea Park Adventure Playcentre? Should the yummy mummies of Fulham be waved through with their offspring while the low paid workers on the Council estates of Tooting pay for the supervision via their Council Tax? Should they be allowed in without parting with £2.50 in cappuccino money? Is defending that right really the great Socialist priority in 2011?