Save Our Playhouse!

Sands End mums take rescue campaign to council cabinet

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A group of mums campaigning to save Sands End Playhouse will make a desperate appeal to Hammersmith and Fulham Council Cabinet at a Town Hall meeting on Thursday July 15 at 7pm.

The Fulham families launched the campaign after staff at Sands End Association Projects in Action, SEAPIA, who manage the Playhouse, were informed last week that the council was cutting off its funding of £94,000 a year.

That means the Playhouse will close in September unless campaigners persuade the council to change its mind.

Sands End Playhouse, next to the Pineapple Park in Pearscroft Road has offered a drop-in service for children under school age for nearly 40 years. And says local mum Barbara Nicholson, one of those leading the campaign: "There is no other provision, year round, open to everyone for under fives in the area, with secure outside space and trained staff. The playhouse is a lifeline for parents."

Adds another mum, Claudine Frederick, who benefits from the playhouse's after-school club facilities: "If it closes I would have to consider giving up work as Sands End Playhouse is the only club available which collects children from my daughter's school."

The campaigners have set up a Facebook page which already has over 600 members, and have protested to MP Greg Hands and to local councillors.

Hammersmith and Fulham Council have responded, saying they will continue to give SEAPIA £50,000 a year to run the nearby adventure playground for five to 13 year-olds.

One member received this reply from Helen Binmore, Cabinet Member for Children's Services:
"We really do value the work that SEAPIA do in the community in Sands End and we want them to continue doing what they do. That is exactly why we are proposing to continue to fund them with £50, 000 for the coming year and £47, 000 for next year.

" However, SEAPIA requested £152,819 for the coming year from a total fund of £740,146 which was over 20% of the whole Children, Young People and Families allocation for the borough which has over 32 000 children, 51% of these being in the bottom 20% of deprivation in the country.

" In the past the council gave SEAPIA £93,000 a year, so this year the proposal is a £43,000 reduction. These proposals were not arrived at lightly or easily, but sadly in the current economic climate it just is not realistic for voluntary organisations to reply on receiving the majority of their funding from the council whilst also being given buildings for peppercorn rents. If this was an option we would love to do it, however the money is just not available.

" As I am sure you know after decades of a Labour administration this council inherited a non housing debt of £169 million. To put this in context it cost taxpayers £10 million a year just to service this debt before anything could be spent on services. We are working hard to reduce this debt in order to free up cash for frontline services and to date have reduced it to £133 million but until this debt can be further reduced and in light of grant reductions from the Government our hands are tied.

" However, as I have said, we really do want SEAPIA to continue delivering their under 5s service and are therefore asking them to also raise funds from other sources in order to make their organisation more self sustaining. We would like to support them in doing this and have asked the co-ordinating organisation for the voluntary sector in the Borough, CaVSA (www.cavsa.org.uk ) to help as well.

" They can support groups to seek external funding to become more self-sustaining, and they also run training courses on setting up social enterprises. I hope that you could consider being among the parents and carers who could be involved in helping to develop the organisation."

The campaigners will not be alone at Hammersmith Town Hall on Thursday. A large rally is being planned at 6.15 pm by a number of organisations from across the borough whose futures are threatened by council cost cutting.

July 14, 2010