Council looks to close play areas to cut costs

time:2023-06-08 23:52:47 source:The Washington Post

A council has proposed closing all its children's play areas to cut costs ahead of its new budget.

Blaenau Gwent council outlined the proposal in an online survey for residents to vote on potential reductions.

Other options include moving black bin collections to once a month and stopping support for Armistice parades.

The council said it was "engaging with residents" and final decisions will be made "later this month".

Youth Sport Trust, a children's sports charity, called play areas "vitally important" spaces for children to stay active and healthy, no matter their age or ability.

"It's vital every child has the opportunity to take part in sport and play to form healthy habits for life," it said.

Children's commissioner Rocio Cifuentes said it was "hugely disappointing" that closing play areas was an "option being considered".

"Children's right to play is fundamental, and authorities have a legal duty to make sure children have opportunities to play in their area," she said.

"I will be contacting the council to emphasise these legal duties and the importance of children's rights."

The funding the council receives from the Welsh government will increase by 6.5% for 2023-24 - the lowest increase in Wales - leaving a £6.7m gap in the council's finances.

The proposal to close play areas - which the council said would save £50,000 - would see all outdoor play areas, multi-use games areas and wheeled sports areas shut.

The council has also suggested saving £2,400 by "ceasing support" for Armistice parades and a further £252,000 by reducing council funding to individual schools.

Other cost cutting proposals and potential savings:

The council has also proposed reducing the budget for council members' allowances, potentially saving £50,000.

It said that council tax currently makes up just over 22% of its overall budget, the second lowest percentage in Wales.

Residents were also asked how acceptable they would find a 4% increase to their council tax.

"It gives them the space to express themselves, learn, form friendships and a sense of belonging," said a spokesperson for Youth Sport Trust, which works alongside Sport Wales.

"Sport Wales research recently showed that 36% (111,000) pupils reported 'no frequent participation' in organised sport outside of the curriculum with many participating less than once a week."

A spokesperson for the council said: "The council is facing a range of financial pressures which has resulted in a significant funding gap, and we have put together a series of savings and efficiencies proposals to try and address this shortfall.

"It's important we get out and engage with people in our communities so that we can explain in more detail the scale of the challenge and the difficult decisions we are facing.

"[Closing play areas] is just one proposal in a series of savings ideas put forward which councillors will make the final decisions on later this month."

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