Campaigners say even “bullying and aggression” couldn’t deter them from Southport park victory
Young mums who were left feeling “bullied, humiliated and intimidated” by local councillors say it was all worthwhile after seeing plans finalised to save the Southport playground they were fighting for.
The campaigners were speaking after Sefton Council authorised work costing nearly £50,000 to completely revamp the park on Ovington Drive which has been closed for safety reasons due to ageing equipment.
Organisers of the Kew Playground Campaign had received early support from local Labour activists and Liz Savage, Labour’s Southport parliamentary candidate, who helped them secure a guarantee of £30,000 funding from Sefton Council to renovate the park.
The local residents’ group say they ran into hostility though from some Liberal Democrat councillors when attending what turned out to be the last Southport Area Committee meeting to ask them to release ward funds, which were needed to meet the full projected cost of the scheme.
Diane Thomas, who with Nat Glennon was one of the two young mums barracked by the councillors, explained that although very upsetting at the time, it is more than outweighed by finally getting the playground they want officially approved:
“We faced little but opposition and what I feel was bullying and aggression from certain Lib Dem councillors. We were shouted at and felt really belittled by them at the meeting. It was so bad that people in the public gallery actually intervened to tell the councillors to stop yelling at us.”
“Then one of them even carried on hassling us online afterwards. The problems didn’t end there either. It was distressing and astonishing that local councillors would act like that. “
“They kept promising support in the press while actually doing nothing to help and a lot to hinder I’d say but we’ve finally won through and are really thrilled, it’s made it all worthwhile. “
“Credit to Southport Labour for supporting us all the way and their new Kew councillor, Janis Blackburne, who finally managed to get funds from the ward’s Lib Dem councillors a year on since we first asked. We’d originally requested more but without her help, I doubt we’d have even got what we did. “
“She also listened to concerns about the design of the new park scheme and went back and fought our corner to get something more suitable for us. We can’t thank them enough and all the local support we’ve received from residents. “
Councillor Janis Blackburne said it was a very satisfying result but was unnecessarily hard-fought:
“We gave backing very early on and Liz Savage won a promise last year from the Labour group in Sefton for the bulk of the money. I’ve now also secured agreement from Kew’s two remaining Lib Dem councillors for two years worth of ward funds which has meant another £8,000 added to the pot. “
“If they had acted on this earlier instead of dragging their feet then local children wouldn’t have been without their playground for such a long time but I’m very glad the Lib Dems finally shifted after my election and listened to my appeals. “
“The women behind the campaign have gone through a lot to get this far and shown real determination. They are an absolute credit to the local community.”
Liz Savage readily agreed, commenting:
“It’s wonderful to finally see this over the line and it shows the value of our working together with residents yet again and with Sefton for the benefit of Southport. The campaigners and their supporters have done a great job and we are really glad to help them get this far. “
Local professional childminder Tracy Burke also helped lead the campaign and explained that the shortfall in ward funds was largely offset by working with Kew Woods Primary School:
“The school was really helpful and together we raised just over £6,000 to contribute to the park project thanks to widespread support from the local community and some local businesses. “
“We are so proud of the school and residents and all those who rallied around to help us win through. It’s been a tough year and one that really didn’t have to be as hard going as it was but we got here. “
“Now we can’t wait for the work to finally begin and for the kids of Kew to have a fantastic new facility to play on and enjoy. That’s all it was ever about. “