Words of congratulation to Aldwick Parish Council re the story they have spent £3,000 to provide local children with play activities through buying in Arun’s Play Rangers.
Not enough of this is happening and Fair Play for Children is about to publish national statistics that major councils have clobbered such spending – in 2011-12 down to 60 per cent of the previous year, while main expenditure went down to 93 per cent and adult leisure to 91 per cent (Freedom of Information survey).
In these days of concern about childhood obesity, it shows one nonetheless where their priorities to cut lie.
It’s worth, however, looking back, even as far as the 1980s when Arun could number two serious summer playscheme organisations in Bognor and Littlehampton – the former ran eight local schemes in the summer holidays for two weeks each. There were also schemes in East Preston and other venues, all of them free, and all of them run by the voluntary sector.
Then, from 1983 for the next 28 years, was the Bognor Fun Bus, in multiple venues in Bognor, Littlehampton, The Five Villages, also, unlike the playschemes, year-round.
It also was a voluntary sector project created and run by local people. We recorded more than 96,000 attendances, 3,500-plus sessions, employed staff and volunteers, raised and spent £1.2m (£78,000 from Arun), gave at least three times that in voluntary work’s worth of time, skills and experience.
Play Rangers? Employed play staff, who I guess use something like a van or trailer with equipment and materials.
The Fun Bus? Fully-equipped, all-weather equipment, materials and space.
These current sessions appear to be costing Aldwick £300 each, while the Fun Bus worked out at £179 a session at the last count.
Where is all that voluntary input and commitment now? Apart from people having to work more hours, unemployed people dancing through ever-increasing hoops, the sick chased from pillar to post (ie central government), we can look no further than Arun District Council, whose attitude over the years saw all the summer schemes disappear – and even the Fun Bus crew, in the end, saying we couldn’t do it any more.
Our grant history over those years was a constant fight, councillors said in meetings the bus was a ‘rust bucket’, and, of course, the clear dislike many councillors had for me personally, for which the kids were made to suffer.
Our last grant, for a whole year, was in 2003 – £2,500 I recall. Then, we were told, you’ve had enough from Arun.
Arun talks the big talk about community leadership. Only if your face fits.