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‘Keep playgrounds in town hall hands’
Monday, 24 September 2012
CAMPAIGNERS descended on a town hall to protest against outsourcing public services including kids’ play areas, libraries and one o’clock clubs.
Trade unions, teachers and the public held banners and placards outside Lambeth Town Hall, in Acre Lane, Brixton, where the council’s cabinet was meeting on Wednesday night.
Discussion on the outsourcing issue was dropped from the agenda because of the controversy.
The protest was organised after last month’s revelation that Lambeth Play Association (LPA) - a private company contracted to run children’s adventure playgrounds - had breached the terms of its contract.
The seven playgrounds were shut to the public during the height of the school holidays when it was revealed by the South London Press that LPA did not disclose results of criminal record disclosures of staff to the council.
Seven playgrounds managed by the council but supervised by LPA were closed at the height of the summer holidays and five of them are yet to reopen.
Grace Lally, who takes her child to the Max Roach adventure playground in Brixton, which did reopen after the revelations, was one of the demonstrators.
She said: “Many users warned of the dangers of transferring the adventure playgrounds out of council management.
“We have been proved right in the worst possible way.
“I know parents who stopped using the adventure playgrounds after they were outsourced as they felt LPA did not employ enough experienced staff and the hours were cut so drastically.” Campaigners are concerned that council one o’clock clubs will be outsourced next.
The council has also been criticised for changes to the library services.
Libraries will now be run as “community hubs” with services shared between the borough’s nine sites.
But opponents of the plan believe it will mean fewer staff and books available.
Council leader Steve Reed has defended the “co-operative council” model. He said: “Unison also say they’re concerned about potential breaches of safeguarding. “Safeguarding is a serious matter that concerns us all, so I’m proud that Lambeth council and our partners in the community were recently judged by Ofsted to have the best safeguarding practices in the country. “Put simply, there is no reason to assume that a community-led service is any more likely to be at risk than a council-led service. “What matters is the quality of monitoring that’s in place, and we will accept only the highest standards regardless of who is running the service.”
All content © of South London Press unless stated otherwise.
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