Wednesday, 29 September 2010

How Cllr Steve Reed let down local children and Kate Hoey or The Triangle (ongoing saga), Part 3 or

So, you'll know (if you've kept up with the Triangle Playground saga) that the Triangle Adventure Playground is a community playground, whose removal is desired by Archbishop Tension School because they wish to use the land to expand their premises. Lambeth Council seem to have made it their goal to evict the Triangle Association from the playground (see Part 1 here) in anticipation of the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) expansion at Archbishop Tenison.  Unfortunately, many BSF projects have since fallen through (ConDem cuts) and so the school expansion can't take place, but the Council still wish to evict the Triangle Adventure Playground.  Why?

In part 2 of the saga, I explained that of the six school expansion options drawn up by Atkins architects for Lambeth Council, the Council had opted for the only plan which involved the removal of the Triangle Adventure Playground.  The playground site did not need to be used to expand the school, as the 5 alternative options attest. The playground is a much loved play space and resource for local young people, desperately needed, I'd argue, in an area with high levels of urban deprivation where there isn't much room for creative, adventurous play.  (It needs also to be made clear that much of Archbishop Tenison's intake is drawn from the borough of Southwark, so whilst it's a good local secondary school, it doesn't /necessarily/ benefit its Lambeth neighbours).  Again, I'm not convinced we've got to the bottom of the matter of why Lambeth Council chose option 6, the playground removal option.

Today we are going to move on to part 3 of the saga.  This was the very interesting piece of news that I mentioned on Twitter last week.  I agreed to allow the South London Press to print it first, so you can go and read the full article (it's not behind their pay wall) just here.  But it boils down to the fact that local children from the Triangle Playground went with their parents and Kate Hoey MP to present a petition to Cllr Steve Reed (the leader of Lambeth Council) against closing their playground.  And Cllr Reed failed to show up.  So the children (who had received permission to leave school early) stood on the steps of the Town Hall with their parents to present their petition.  And yet no Council leader appeared in order to receive it.  Shame on him.  It was Steve Reed's office that had specified the time of the meeting and he gave no explanation or apology for his absence whilst he left everybody waiting for half an hour.  Kate Hoey was kind enough to tell the SLP that she didn't see it as a snub to her, considering the children and their parents to have been the ones snubbed, but make of that what you will.

Feel free to try and defend the name of the good Councillors of Lambeth (and we do have some), but letting down local children who've been let out of school early to meet with you is unacceptable behaviour.  If Mr Cobb is right that Cllr Reed is climbing the greasy pole to stand as the next Labour MP for Vauxhall, his failure to receive something as simple as a petition from the community should be highlighted on account of what it says about him as a politician.  The odd thing (no surprises there) is the slant given to the whole matter by the South Lambeth Press.  No mention there of the lovely leader's absence.  Oh, no, October's Lambeth Life (p3) just reports; "Parents and children from the Triangle Adventure Playground have been collecting signatures for the petition and handed it over to the Council Deputy Leader Jackie Meldrum last month."  Wonder why that might have been, then!  Lambeth Life even has the temerity to argue that there's another adventure playground in Kennington Park, with no mention of  their proposed reduction in the size of the One O'Clock club or closure of Kennington park's Children's Centre.  This is where accusations of Lambeth Life "propaganda sheet" rightly abound, (and I'm no fan of supporting the SLP's sex ad rag either).  Thank goodness for local blogs :-) :-)

But Lambeth Life seem to assume that the Triangle Adventure Playground has actually closed.  Cllr Pete Robbins says "We appreciate that this is a much-loved play area, so it was a difficult decision to close it.".  I was unaware that the Triangle had closed (there'll be protests before that happens, no doubt).  But more importantly, I don't understand why the Council are claiming that the Triangle Playground has closed all the time they do not have any money to expand Archbishop Tenison School.  There is no longer any BSF money, so there's no reason to evict the playground.  There was and is no "difficult choice" to be made in light of the fact that the school simply cannot expand at present.  But the Lambeth Life article also seems to invent a kind of double speak.  In Cllr Robbin's mind, the Triangle has closed, since "it /was/" a difficult decision to close it", but Lambeth Life's anonymous columnist maintains it's still open, after all, "A spokesman said there were no immediate plans to close the playground down...".  So what's it to be?

We still have no explanation from  Lambeth about why they can't use any of the other 5 designs by Atkins that do not require the eviction of the Triangle Playground.  Answers on a postcard, please.


Sid Boggle said...

Robbins is quoted in Lambeth Life as pursuing the need for more school places for Lambeth kids, so if most of the Tenison's intake is made up of Southwark kids, then it would be more seemly of our council to defend a local resource for local kids - I went to The Triangle as a kid in the late 60's - lots of the kids off what is now The Ashmole Estate did (the newer part wasn't there when I were a lad...)

Reed didn't miss his photo op at Vauxhall City Farm to plug his 'cooperative council' idea, according to the SE11 Action Team blog, so long as he's got his priorities right, then... The Triangle is about a 15 minute walk from VCF, he could have wandered over if he was bothered.

Did you see free LA propaganda sheets will be restricted to 4 times a year under ConDem plans?

SE11 Lurker said...

Thanks for your insightful comments as usual, Mr Boggle :)

I can't be entirely certain of the Tenion's intake, hence my careful wording. No doubt some of the kids are Lambeth, but many are definitely from Southwark too. I'd probably need to get a breakdown, and I've not paid a lot of attention to local secondary schools. I know more about the Primary ones at the moment, due to the angry parents meeting of late.

I could understand the council refusing to defend the Triangle if that were the only way to expand the school. It isn't, and I've not yet heard why one of the other 5 plans for school expansion wasn't chosen. Pleased to hear you went to the Triangle as a kid! I'm tempted to gather some people for a sit-in if the Council insist on turfing off the Triangle, so maybe you know some others that would be interested.

Co-op council stuff is dull. I'll believe it when I see it. Right now, we're just looking down the barrel of a shotgun of a thousand thousand cuts, so I'm hoping that the ensuing protest and attempts to preserve some services will bring local people together more.

It would be very easy for councillors to wander over to look at the Triangle. I'd like to hear the Oval Councillors standing up to Cllr Robbins and arguing to preserve the playground and use one of the other school expansion plans.

Glad to hear the propaganda sheet will be restricted, but I don't necessarily hold out much hope for the recovery in popularity of local papers, so it will be interesting to see where people get their news from.

Anonymous said...

"ConDem cuts"

I don't know whether this is conscious repetition of labour propaganda but how exactly do you argue that the govt should bear responsibility for the cuts? given...

1. The govt built up a massive structural deficit before 2007 and the global recession. And presided over a regulatory system and monetary policy that inflated the consumer borrowing bubble (2000 - 2007)

2. Alasdair Darling admitted that savage cuts - bigger than under Thatcher in 1981/2 - would be required.

3. Labour finance minister Liam Byrne (clearly not someone to put country before party) thought it funny to leave a note to his coalition successor saying that there was no money left

4. current interets payments on the deficit are more than the entire education budget.

You have claimed to want to hold the council to account but you are in danger of making it easy for them to blame every problem on central government. No prizes for guessing that will be their local election strategy in 2014

SE11 Lurker said...

"ConDem cuts" merely means that the national ConDems are undertaking them. A national Labour govt would have had to make cuts and since the last "new" Labour are responsible for spending all of the money in good time (or, rather, Gordon Brown was), I don't spare a great deal of sympathy for them either.

I want to hold the council to account, and inevitably, they'll blame any cuts they make on the national government, but I want to see them approach the people about what to cut and how. You're right though. I don't want to make it too easy for them to just blame the current government.

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