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Residents voice anger over Carlisle council play park cutbacks

Angry residents confronted councillors over plans to remove play park equipment.

Carlisle play parks protest photo
Protesters outside the Civic Centre

A group of protestors, including primary school children, made their voices heard by chanting “save our parks” outside Carlisle’s Civic Centre last night as they opposed city council plans to strip 21 parks of their swings, roundabouts and slides as a cost-cutting measure.

Many of them also made their way into the public gallery during last night’s budget debate clapping and cheering as opposition councillors spoke out in favour of their cause.

City council leaders say that the cuts will allow them to make savings worth around £25,000 and that the true cost of bringing all the play areas up to standard would be just under £400,000.

Some of the sites earmarked in the cull include Belah, Parkside, Hunters Crescent in Dalston, Irthing Park in Brampton, Sheffield Street in Denton Holme and Raffles Avenue.

One of the main critics of the plans has been Belah councillor Gareth Ellis, who put forward an amendment to get the city council to reverse its decision and instead pump money into improving the parks, at the expense of the old fire station art centre scheme.

He said that the Labour-controlled authority had made mistakes in identifying certain parks as under-used, including the one in his ward.

“They are an important part of the local community. If the council got it wrong with this park, then what other parks did they also get it wrong?” he said.

“I discussed this with a young boy in my area and asked him what he liked about the play parks and he said ‘it is because this is my space rocket and we all fly to the moon’. Mr Mayor, don’t take away our children’s dreams and let them continue to fly to the moon,” he said.

Mr Ellis also criticised the lack of a proper consultation process and said residents, parish councils and other community groups’ views were not taken into account.

Deputy leader of the city council Elsie Martlew defended the proposals and said that no one had contacted her with any concerns.

“None of the residents we are talking about have contacted me about this,” she said. “I’m quite happy to discuss any of the proposals put forward by community groups. If people feel that they want to take the management of the play areas over we will meet with the relevant officers. If they want to work together with us we can help them with this.”

Mrs Martlew reiterated that cuts needed to be made after the council was left with a near £4 million hole in its budget caused by the Government slashing cash for local authorities.

After the debate, assurances were made by the leader of the council, Colin Glover, that the stripping of equipment in the Belah play area would be deferred until the end of the programme – likely after the summer – to allow officers to speak with residents further about the plans and come up with a solution.

Among the heated debates, councillors did manage to agree on some of the amendments put forward.

Both parties agreed that they should accept the Government’s offer of a council tax freeze for the next two years after previously drafting a budget on now scrapped plans to increase it.

Members also agreed to freeze their allowances for the next year making a saving of £3,000 which would be put into staff well-being initiatives.

The amendments were referred back to the council’s executive and a further full council budget meeting will be held later this month.

Have your say

Shut up Ian H, you know nothing of the sort

Posted by Tim on 7 February 2014 at 13:31

Do people really think that it's swings and seesaws are what prevents obesity??? There's still gonna be the fields for kids to play football or other sports in!

Posted by Ed on 7 February 2014 at 13:29

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