THE CONVENER of neighbourhood services has accused the former leader of Angus Council of misleading the public over the proposals to remove play equipment at public parks.
The comments from Arbroath councillor Donald Morrison came after Councillor Bob Myles stated in last week’s Brechin Advertiser that the proposals to remove play equipment from up to 50 parks were unacceptable.
However, Councillor Morrison confirmed he had obtained documentation showing within the previous Angus Council administration’s 2012/13 budget, agreement was made to remove play park equipment.
Speaking to the Brechin Advertiser, Councillor Morrison said: “I find it worrying, the former leader of Angus Council, Councillor Myles, who commanded an annual salary of over £30,000 was either unaware of what was going on during his five years in this position or is trying to mislead the public once again.
“Councillor Myles may have personally disagreed with the proposals, but documentation shows his Angus Alliance administration knew the issue regarding playparks had to be dealt with as more equipment was beginning to get past its best.
“What makes matters worse is the previous administration were also aware how sensitive the issue would be ahead of the council elections and wanted to hide it away.
“Instead they sought to close parks by stealth.
“Notes contained in departmental savings for the 2012/13 budget state; “removal of play equipment (to be) identified through regular ongoing inspection regime as failing health and safety requirements.”
“This means had Councillor Myles remained as leader of the council his administration would have closed parks without the public even being consulted and placed the blame onto council officers.
“Despite finding over half a million pounds from the council’s emergency fund for one playpark in Arbroath, Councillor Myles and his Alliance chums failed to bring forward any strategy or invest some of those monies into replacing equipment at the majority of the 99 remaining areas which now require urgent maintenance or are being proposed for permanent removal.
“With equipment at 28 of the 50 play areas proposed for retention needing to be replaced this shows a blatant lack of investment in the last years by Councillor Myles at our small play areas.
“Instead his Angus Alliance wanted big, bigger and the biggest legacy projects to the detriment of everything else, leaving this council with a £45 million black hole in the capital budget and an additional £2 million to retain all the equipment at all of the parks in Angus.”
Councillor Morrison added that he was pleased in one aspect that Councillor Myles had finally admitted he was fully aware the playpark proposals existed during his reign as leader: “Last April in the Brechin Advertiser Councillor Myles was quoted as denying an audit had taken or was to take place, even after the then vice convenor for neighbourhood services, Councillor Colin Brown, had shared a draft copy of plans for the parks in Forfar to the burgh community council back in December 2010.
“Councillor Myles even added if it was decided to make any decision on playparks the public would be consulted.
“Sadly this was not the case for the seven parks where equipment was removed during the Angus Alliance’s five year term and their initial report on the proposed 50 parks failed to recommend going out for any public consultation.
“This was added on the insistence of both myself and my vice-convener.
“However, it needs to be made clear due to a lack of investment over the last five years and the persistence by Councillor Myles for legacy projects, equipment at some play areas in the burghs may have to be removed and not replaced, but we need to hear the views from the public to find which areas can possibly be saved.”
The claims have been denied by Councillor Bob Myles who stated they are “total lies”
He said: “That [the closure of playparks] was put forward as suggestions to the Alliance and the Alliance totally rejected it and we threw it out the court.
“There was no wish or method in place to get rid of the playparks.
“It was not part of our savings at all. We deemed this savings as totally unacceptable for all they were achieving.
“This is all to brush over and tarnish the good deeds of the Alliance.
“Money for the Arbroath playpark was from a different budget altogether.
“There was not an audit as such that took place, there was an assessment on playparks. Some of the ones identified now were identified by us and we considered what we should do with them. We said that they were the fabric of the towns and burghs and were required to be kept so we rejected them for any savings so anything he is trying to blame us for is ridiculous.
“I still think the proposals are totally unacceptable. There may be the odd one, I can’t speak for the whole of Angus, that is so little used that it may be deemed acceptable to withdraw it from the system but that is for each of the burgh councillors to come up with.
“As far as the ones for Brechin are concerned they are all unacceptable to be brought out for savings.
“The thing now would be to find out how much work some of them would need done. I know the two in Edzell may need some money spent on them.
“If it is going to cost too much we may have to consider other ways or methods of doing that. The removal of the Durriehill Place playpark is unacceptable.
“I feel Councillor Morrison needs to look at his other budgets and see where he can make savings and not take what is an easy option but ridiculous for the public.”
To take part in the council’s survey, and to help save Brechin playparks from closure, visit www.angus.gov.uk/bestvalue/consultation/ResearchCurrent.cfm or collect a paper survey form from council ACCESS offices or libraries.