Children are being charged £2.50 each to play at Battersea Park adventure playground. Although London’s website states that the park is one of the places where children can play freely, children will now have to pay to play. Currently, the charge is for weekends, but could extend to weekdays in the future.
As the cost of living soars and parents struggle to make ends meet in the face of spending cuts and job losses, Wandsworth decide to add to the already overstretched purse strings, and from October will charge for the privilege of using the play area. The council have defended their decision, stating that the charge will allow them to maintain and invest in the playground while giving council tax payers value for money. A spokesman for the council said:
At around half the price of a child’s cinema ticket we do not believe the fee is excessive.
However, Adrian Voce, joint director of Play England considers that some children will have the money to enter the play area, and others won’t. He said:
So you’ll have two classes of children when they are out playing. It also means those who need the facility the most are least likely to be able to pay.
Dr David Haslam from the National Obesity Forum has spoken out against the playground charge, declaring it to be a completely false economy. With the rates of child obesity soaring, and very few opportunities for children to exercise safely, the idea of charging children for the freedom to run around and play will increase the problem of overweight children.
Out of 12,700 children who live in the borough, a third of those are living in poverty, with a high rate of child obesity. The scheme has been branded “appalling” as the charge will ensure that the playground is only used by the privileged few who can afford it. Although the level of council tax in Wandsworth is the lowest in London, it’s officials are high earners, with Paul Martin chief executive earning more than the Prime Minister.
Ken Livingstone, Labour candidate for London Mayor said:
Only the Conservatives could consider charging kids to play. I’m deeply concerned at this attempt to turn publicly funded playgrounds into areas which only the rich and privileged can enjoy.
For families with several children, a £2.50 charge is an expensive day of playtime. In addition, if a child comes out of the play area and then decides to go back in later, they have to pay again…