Sunday, 15 May 2011

Stonebridge Adventure Playground stays to avoid Big Lottery clawback

Stonebridge Adventure Playground in earlier times
Another report going to the Executive on May 23rd seeks authority to award a contract to Brent Play Association for  running the Stonebridge Adventure Playground and Special Educational Needs Afterschool Clubs in Brent.

The contract has been going through years of short-term renewal since 2008 when BPA lost the contract to a charity called Kids after a bidding process. Kids sponsors included David Cameron and Cheri Blair but there were doubts about its ability to cater for Brent's diverse community and concern that the 'locally grown' playleaders who offered a positive role model to local children would be lost.  Kids eventually said they were unable to deliver the contract and withdrew. The BPA were invited to step back in to retrieve the situation and there followed a series of re-tendering proposals, short-term contracts and uncertainty for staff and children.

The uncertainty continues with this contract as it only runs from 1st June 2011 until 31st March 2012.
While securing play for children over the summer holiday  it still leaves the future in doubt. Playworkers will be in a quandary about whether to seek other work after the summer and the BPA is likely to have to once again issue protective redundancy notices to staff.

The Council faces a major problem with the Stonebridge Adventure Playground because the Playground Project was funded in 2008 under a deed of dedication with the Big Lottery Fund. Under the deed the site can only be used for the Project and cannot be disposed of without the consent of the Fund. In addition the Fund can withdraw funding or require repayment if the Council does not comply with any of the terms of the deed. The short-term contract removes the risk of repayment. 

The ten month contract is valued at £150,000 and the Council  will pay the running and utility costs of the Stonebridge Centre and the running costs of playschemes. The BPA will continue to occupy the Adventure Playground. Over the summer officers will consider options for the  'most appropriate future service delivery models for providing play services in Brent.' Sounding a note of of warning the report states that 'within a reduced budget it is likely this service will be increasingly targeted to those in greatest need'.  This sounds like the rationing of children's play opportunities. Sad, when £150,000 in the context of the overall budget, is such a small sum.

Meanwhile the campaign to secure the long-term future of Stonebridge Adventure Playground continues LINK
The Council report can be found HERE

Declaration of Interest: I am a trustee of Brent Play Association and a member of Play England which is dedicated to improving play facilities for children. This blog represents my personal views and not necessarily those of either organisation.

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