Around 100 Borough children and parents gathered at Mint Street Adventure Playground on Tuesday, to protest against potential Southwark Council cuts to children’s play services.
The facility, which may have drastically to reduce its opening hours as the council scrambles to save £100m over the next three years, was described by parents as “more than just a playground.”
Timi Ahern, a mum who visits the site with her thirteen-year-old son, told the News: “It’s kind of like a hub. It can be a lifeline for people, like for single parents who have somewhere to go and meet people. There is a real diversity of cultures here too.
“We understand that cuts are being made by the government and the savings need to be made, but regarding places like this… it’s more than just a playground, it’s a place where we encourage each other and focus on the positives.”
Another Borough mum Hannah Metcalf agreed, telling the News there were “strong feelings” in the community regarding the playground, and its hard-working staff member Jason, who may have his hours reduced under the new system. She said: “Jason runs everything here, whether it’s a niggly climbing frame or a problem with the building. We’re here to protest against reduced hours but also to support him.
“It’s a very strong community at Mint Street. We have children from Charles Dickens School, Cathedral school, Saint Saviour’s and Saint Olave’s. It’s made a big difference in a lot of lives and we want to give back by protecting it.”
Following substantial government cuts to local authority spending announced at the recent Autumn Statement, the council are looking for ways to save £96m over the next three years.
Councillor Victoria Mills, Southwark Council Cabinet Member for Children and Schools, said the playground would stay open, but did warn that changes should be expected.
She said: “We have no plans to close Mint Street adventure playground, although there are likely to be changes to some of our youth services, in the face of huge funding cuts by Government.
“Last week’s Cabinet report set out the challenging financial situation faced by the council in the coming years, with millions of pounds lost already, and another £96m reduction over the next three years.
“We published our proposals now so that local people can comment on our proposed changes to council services, and help us deliver a carefully considered and fair budget next February. We’re welcoming views from residents as we consider the challenges ahead.”