Saturday, December 09, 2006

Not playing the game

In 2001, Labour made an election promise to ringfence £200m of New Opportunities Fund money to improve children's play facilities. Frank Dobson was duly detailed to conduct a survey and make recommendations about how the money should be spent, and his report: 'getting serious about play' appeared in January 2004.

It painted a dismal picture of 'neglected' play projects and 'run down and degraded' public spaces, and recommended that the £200m should be used to: 'open up thousands of high quality play opportunities', concentrating on the most deprived areas. It also recommended that:
NOF should use an allocation process for distributing most of the funding, rather than a bidding process. This is needed to ensure that the funding reaches the areas where the need is greatest, not just those who are best placed to make an application.
So far, so good.

A long silence followed until, in November 2004, it became apparent that the terms 'ringfence' and '£200m' were in fact rather loose. The ringfencing was removed and the figure was reduced to £124m, for which local authorities and play projects would have to bid individually.

We now learn that:

The Big Lottery Fund has not given any money out to help local authorities develop their play strategies...The news follows the announcement of the fund's £124m Children's Play Programme last spring.

The first group of local authorities applied for cash in July and were expecting to hear whether their applications had been successful within three months. However, not one of the 19 submissions by local authorities has met the fund's criteria.

We can't help wondering if a lottery-funded project to increase local authority uptake of ASBOs would have run into quite so many delays and difficulties.


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