Members were provided with information regarding the management and maintenance of Council playgrounds. It was highlighted that 47 playgrounds across the County Borough were within the Councils remit; the circulated report didn’t cover those managed by other parties e.g. Town and Community Councils.
Appendix A of the circulated report set out the ongoing process of inspection and review that was in place to ensure sure Council owned playgrounds remained safe for everyone to use; the report also provided information regarding a mobile ranger who carried out weekly inspections of the playgrounds.
The Committee was informed of the budgets relating to this work; the amount of monies within the revenue budget for Neighbourhood Services was set out in the report, along with the money allocated towards maintenance of playgrounds. It was stated that there was around £30k in the budget per year to carry out replacement of equipment; this was the remaining money after allocating money for the day to day management, inspection, and safety measures.
It was explained was that there wasn’t a standing capital allocation for renewal of the equipment; therefore Officers had to put in bids, as and when required, in the budget process which gets considered as part of the annual budget rounds. It was mentioned that there was a significant investment program ongoing in the current year; however, Officers had to wait on the supply chain in terms of the equipment arriving. Members were informed that supply chains across a lot of areas of work had been disrupted by the pandemic.
Following on from the above, it was noted that Officers were working with colleagues in other services and looking for match funding opportunities; the Team worked closely with the Project Development and Funding Manager, and Members who were looking to add additional investment and make improvements to playgrounds in their Wards, through the Members Community Fund. It was added that Appendix B of the circulated report highlighted the programmed playground investment that was currently ongoing, which totalled to around £350k. Officers were hopeful for extra monies from the budget process for next year; this extra money was included in the consultation that was currently being carried out on the Councils revenue budget.
Officers updated Members on one of the issues identified in the circulated report, relating to the number of swings that were removed from Council playgrounds during 2020 as part of meeting the national social distancing measures. It was noted that the Team had received all parts for the swings, apart from a handful of chains which were still required in order to rebuild the cradle swings; Officers hoped that the majority will be put back up in the next two weeks, with those remaining by the end of February.
Members raised the need for a strategic plan and vision for playgrounds, and highlighted the importance of play for children. Concerns were voiced in regards to the level of playgrounds that Neath Port Talbot had, particularly the lack of in some areas; as well as the lack of money to spend on maintenance and replenishing the playgrounds. Officers reassured Members that keeping these areas safe and in order was the key focus for the Team, and highlighted that budget was an issue for a lot of other services within the Council; Officers were always happy to spend as much allocated for these types of infrastructures.
Officers were asked if, at present, they had the personnel within the Neighbourhood Services Team for safety, inspection and maintenance of equipment in playgrounds; to which it was confirmed that they did.
Concerns were raised in regards to the plastic waste bins which were located in some Council owned playgrounds across the County Borough; some of them were subject to vandalism, and had to be replaced numerous times in the matter of weeks. Officers confirmed that they would look into this issue, and provide an alternative to the plastic bins, where appropriate.
Following scrutiny, the report was noted.