A Timely Reform by Ian Ridley

Blog & web site of Ian Ridley

Playground cuts leave a sour taste

So the Coalition have announced the end of the Playbuilder scheme, scrapping or scaling back hundreds of community playground projects. The exact direct savings to the public purse are unclear. The scheme’s overall budget was £235 million to fund 3,500 projects. According to the BBC less than 1,300 have been completed so a rough guess might be that £150 million won’t be spent.

Now rewind a few days to the suggestions to end free milk for the under fives. That would have saved £50-59 million per year.

The need for free milk for young children is unclear. The scheme originated when wartime rationing was still in force. However milk and other sources of nutirition are easily bought now. The BBC has a good article on the pros and cons. The main concern is probably that milk may help suppliment the diet of children whose parents do not provide them with the nutrition they need.

The Playbuilder cuts have raised mutterings about increased childhood obesity.

I admit I am comparing apples with oranges here: Playbuilder uses Capital (one-off) funds whereas Nursery Milk is a annual cost. However, costs over a three year period would seem to be roughly similar.

So what we have is a choice between 2 schemes that basically cost the same over three  years. The Coalition has decided to keep the milk and cut the playgrounds without explaining the health benefits/ impacts of these decisions.

Instead the perception is that school milk is an “untouchable” due to the (erroneous) legacy of ““Maggie Thatcher the Milk Snatcher”. Playgrounds are a soft target.

I would not like to think that the Coalition make their decisions based on focus group rather than facts.

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