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More flexible funding available for Highland Council play parks

By Tom Ramage

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An estimated £3.46m is needed to repair and maintain 339 Highland Council play parks.

After yesterday's meeting, Councillor Allan Henderson, chair of the communities and place committee, said: “A different approach to managing the play park estate is required in order to meet the scale of investment required.

"There is a need to develop more local and community-led solutions.

"Members, staff and community bodies working together to solve problems, prioritise action and identify other resource possibilities would offer a better approach and there are some really good examples of this in some communities already.

"We will be recommending this approach to council in December and for play parks to be devolved to area committees for decisions.

"Play areas require a ‘place-based’ approach because they rely on local knowledge of local families and their needs as well as their interest in helping look after our play areas."

Committee chair Allan Henderson
Committee chair Allan Henderson

Mr Henderson went on: "Local connections, community bodies and funding sources can also be identified at a local level.

"This new approach reflects the council’s programme which is working to invigorate local democracy putting communities at the heart of the design and delivery of services at a local level while also developing the capacity of communities to decide and deliver their local priorities.”

He added: “The socio-economic impacts affecting communities because of the Covid-19 pandemic spans all age groups, including our young people.

"We have seen the resilience of Highland communities to help and support others during the pandemic and the willingness for collaborative partnerships.

"To help, we are recommending to council that ward funds are equalized up by investing another £240,000 for local choices on how best to support communities, whether that is with food support or other projects.

"So far there is £374,000 still available for groups to apply for, and this would increase by another £240,000 if the council agrees."

Members at the meeting noted that the prolonged effects of living with Covid-19 extends far beyond those originally identified for the Covid Ward Discretionary Fund.

They also acknowledged that the wider socio-economic and wellbeing impacts of living with coronavirus restrictions are having a significant impact to Highland communities and a degree of flexibility in the allocation of funds is required to meet ongoing changes.

This includes proposals to council to increase individual grant awards to community bodies from £500 to £1500, removing restrictions on ward spend per month, reviewing criteria and processes to encourage more groups to apply and for any unspent funds to be carried forward into the next financial year.

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