Park Campaigners Demand Funds Released And Slam “Misleading” Claims.
Residents campaigning to save the Ovington Drive playground have issued a statement saying they are “deeply concerned” by what they feel are “misleading” claims being made about the park situation.
If follows a leaflet sent out by Liberal Democrat councillors over the weekend and a number of emails since.
The leaflet was delivered to residents on the Kew Estate and claimed that Kew Ward Councillors Mike Booth, Fred Weavers and David Pullin are working with residents on the issue.
The residents’ campaigning group, however, say that they have called on the three councillors to release the ward funds needed for the project but their request has so far been refused by the trio.
Ward funds are council funds that specifically need the permission of the ward’s councillors to be used and Kew Ward has over £20,000 of unused funds available.
The residents’ group are also worried the leaflet appeared to suggest that the Liberal Democrats are an integral part of the residents’ campaign, something strongly denied by its organisers, Tracy Burke, Diane Thomas and Nat Glennon.
“We are happy to work with anyone who will help us but this is a residents’ campaign” explained local childminder, Tracy. She continued:
“Also, despite stating they are working with the residents and talking of “our campaign” it seems they are saying one thing and then doing another. We have asked them to release the ward funds and they are simply stalling. It’s misleading we think and we are deeply concerned.”
The park was closed for safety reasons as a precaution after a young girl broke her arm in Formby on equipment of a similar age and design which had corroded internally. It’s estimated the cost of replacing the play apparatus on a like-for-like basis is around £50,000.
There were fears for its future but after an intervention by Liz Savage and Southport Labour’s Kew Ward branch, Sefton Council agreed to provide the extra £30,0000 needed if the ward funds are also released by its three Liberal Democrat councillors.
The proposal was initially rejected as “ludicrous” by the Lib-Dems but over the weekend they appeared to have a change of stance and put out the leaflet claiming that they were “more than happy to make a significant contribution” although it didn’t reveal any other details regarding it.
Diane Thomas commented:
“We asked them to release the funds and they called it “ludicrous”, now they say will contribute but don’t say how much or when. They are just sitting on nearly six years worth of funds. Sefton Council has made a generous offer, only the Kew Ward councillors are holding things up. If they truly want to help us, it’s simple, release the money now.”
The campaign group revealed how email responses to residents by the ward councillors also seemed designed to cause further delay.
Fellow campaigner Tracy Burke continued:
“They have now told us that they cannot release the funds as it needs to go to Area Committee but we’ve been informed by Sefton that is not the case.”
Emails also stated the councillors want detailed information on costs and specification but the campaigners point out that Sefton Council has already made clear it would be conducting a public consultation with the residents and local school, which will decide those matters. Diane Thomas explained:
“They already know that is the plan but that consultation won’t happen unless the ward councillors agree to release the funds. It seems the Kew Ward councillors are trying to create a Catch 22 type situation.”
Sefton’s Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, Ian Moncur, who has responsibility for parks, explained that the decision was now solely in the hands of Councillors Weavers, Booth and Pullin:
“Council officers have put the proposal to the ward councillors and it is now a decision for them alone. It does not need to go to Area Committee beforehand, as the Director of Legal services has confirmed to me in writing.”
He also revealed that since the offer was first announced last week none of the Lib-Dem councillors had contacted him to discuss the matter but the issue could be swiftly resolved:
“If the Kew Ward councillors do as the residents ask and confirm they will put those funds towards the replacement equipment then we can start the process. We have made a firm offer to the residents. We want to help and help quickly.”
Campaigners say the park is a vital community resource and Tracy Burke says they want the ward councillors to recognise that and act on it:
“We understand they have a pet project regarding a cycle track that doesn’t even exist yet but our playground does. It’s been used well for years and it needs those ward funds now. They accuse Sefton of playing political games in their leaflet but if that is happening, we don’t think it is coming from Sefton Council.”
The full statement can be found at the campaign group’s Facebook page: