Tower Hamlets Mayor accused of wasting money that could have saved playground

As a playground faces closure the Labour opposition in Tower Hamlets has called on the borough’s mayor to stop wasting money on “pet projects” and step in and help.

The prospect of Weavers Fields Adventure Playground closing next month – unless it can secure funding – has raised questions about the financing of playgrounds.

Currently the majority of organisations in the borough are funded by the voluntary sector, according to play development worker Eleanor Image at the umbrella organisation Play Association Tower Hamlets.

She hit out at Mayor Lutfur Rahman for recently spending �115,000 on revamping his offices — money she says would have ensured at least one of the borough’s five staffed playground could stay open for another year.

But with Big Lottery and government funding coming to an end two playgrounds have had to cut their opening hours from five days to two-and-half days a week.

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Ms Image said: “I know we’re are in difficult economic times, but the council could review its corporate expenses and businesses could also give more funding.

Last week Weavers started charging children for entrance to avoid cutting its opening hours. It needs a minimum of �6,000 a month to stay open and says its �22,000 annual council grant is not enough.

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Labour spokesman for children’s, schools and families, Bill Turner, said: “With charities cutting their funding, the council needs to step in and bridge the gap. Youth antisocial behaviour is still a top concern, so parents need to know there are playgrounds to keep them safe and off the streets.

“This makes it even more important that the mayor stops wasting money on his pet projects and directs it where local people want it to go – like saving Weavers from closure.”

A council spokesman said central government cuts makes it “increasingly difficult to plug funding gaps in other organisations”.

She added: “The council has invested in Glamis Adventure Playground. It is also talking to other adventure playgrounds to help them take advantage of additional funding opportunities.”

Staff at Weavers are organising a sponsored walk for August 11 to raise cash.

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