Highbury Park Development: A Misspending of Taxpayers Money?
On Tue 1st March Birmingham City Council agreed to budget cuts of £212m, leading to the loss of 2,450 jobs. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-12616144
At the same time, and in the two weeks since, work on the development of a play area in Highbury Park, Kings Heath commenced.
Birmingham Budget Cuts visited the park to ask its visitors if, given the current economic climate and with the aforementioned cuts, they felt this was a sensible way for the government to be spending taxpayer’s money.
Nicolas Morris, Kings Heath resident, said that he felt it was a complete waste of money. As a primary school teacher himself, he is already seeing cut backs at the school where he works both in terms of staff and equipment. He felt surely the kids would benefit more from investment in education than in a new play area.
Peter Griffin, Moseley resident, agreed. He said that over the last couple of months his bins had very rarely been collected due to cuts enforced upon local bin men. He said he would rather see an end to rubbish piling up outside his house than an unnecessary development in the park.
Frances Pinsk, Kings Heath resident and NHS nurse, was also unhappy with her tax money being spent on this project. She called for the local council to use some common sense. She said it was stupid to see the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital hit by cuts whilst the park received funding. She asked which is more important, a new play area or peoples lives?
Having received only negative feedback from the people we spoke to at the park, we approached the council for their views.
Simon J Cooper, Constituency Parks Manager, told us that the work at Highbury Park is funded by Central Government through the Department of Education under its Play Build Initiative (www.playengland.org.uk/our-work/playbuilders-and-play-pathfinders ). He stated that the initiative started with the previous Labour Government and is continued, albeit with a reduction in the finances, by the present Conservative/Liberal coalition.
Simon then went on to say ‘If we had refused the funding then I am sure another local authority elsewhere in the country would have been more than happy to have received the funds and Highbury Park would once again have missed out on the limited opportunities to develop its parks and children's play.’
David Papadopoulos, from http://highburyparkfriends.org.uk/ also spoke of the length of time that this process has taken. He told us that local people have consistently asked for a play area in the park. He also went on to say that they would be happy to support getting volunteers to help with developments.
What are your views on this matter? Is the play area development, given the recent cuts, a misspending of taxpayers money? Or is the council simply following through with long standing plans to regenerate the local area?