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It’s all swings and roundabouts as village unites over playground row

May 11, 2012

UNDER-FIRE Elford Parish Council has taken a leaf out of The Good Marriage Guide to bring to an end a three-year village playground row that threatened to slide out of its control.

Parish Council members found themselves under constant attack on a runaway merry-go-round of outside criticism – even having to justify their actions to The VATman at HM Revenue and Customs.

But the council has now created a peace platform to unite the village under one banner where “couples who play together stay together”.

For a new management structure, piloted by the parish council, will ensure Elford’s memorial playground has a bright future.

The village’s new Land Management Committee has been set up to include both parish members and volunteers from the Elford Jubilee Memorial Playground group (EJMP) – with councillors and villagers sitting on the same set of swings.

Recommendations for replacement equipment will be made by the management committee to the parish council. Any funds raised by the playgroup volunteers will now be donated to the authority, once the need for new equipment has been identified.

Marital psychologist Howard Markman believes the parish council’s actions are akin to couples realising their marriages are happier when they make time to have fun.

“The more you invest in friendship and being there for your partner, the happier the relationship will get over time,” he added.

Historically, over the last 10 years the volunteer playground group has raised more than £100,000 through various events and grants, providing a superb facility for the younger generation of the village.

“Over the last three years external claims have been made about VAT reclaimed by the parish council on monies spent building the playground,” said parish council chairman Richard Wain.

”We have always acted in good faith and have now received confirmation from HMRC that we have no case to answer on this issue.

“Elford is a small village of 240 homes, yet the residents of the village are second to none in supporting fund raising events for groups and societies in the village.

“The volunteer group has worked tirelessly to ensure the village has a facility that we can all be proud of.  Many man hours are spent during all weathers cleaning and maintaining the facility.

“The volunteers should be congratulated for their continued hard work and the residents thank the volunteers for all the fund raising they do.

“Despite all this, over the last 18 months individuals in both the parish council and the volunteer group have been openly criticised by a third party from outside of the village, which is wholly unjustified particularly when people give up their valuable time on a voluntary basis”.

In this new era of localism, communities are being encouraged to run their own facilities and take responsibility for what is going on in their village, says Mr Wain.

Now he sees Elford and its neighbouring parishes “doing just this, but getting little recognition for all the hard work and effort put in”.

A bench inscribed in memory of Bill McCavery has also been provided through funds raised by the group.  He worked tirelessly to help clean and maintain the playground on a regular basis and also made a huge contribution to the building of the playground.

A special handover presentation took place last month attended by Bill’s wife, Jenny, and a number of his relatives.

Steve Pountney, left, and Elford Parish Council chairman Richard Wain

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