COUNCIL officers have been slammed by their own councillors for an over zealous reaction that saw them dismantle a children’s playground.
Angry residents acted quickly and amassed more than 600 signatures on a petition within hours of equipment being removed from the playground off Ruskin Road, in Stanford-le-Hope reports The Essex Enquirer.
Thurrock Council says its officers were acting with safety in mind as they have no cash to repair the equipment – though residents and parents say it was perfectly safe.
“I have two children, aged three and seven, who use it regularly. I would not let them go on it if it wasn’t safe. This is just health and safety gone mad,” said one parent as she signed the petition at a nearby service station and supermarket.
Local councillors Terry Hipsey and Eddie Hardiman were angered by the speed of the Council’s action.
Tory Cllr Hardiman said: “Both ward councillors were given no notice of this. Officers just came down and did it.
“We have had to go around apologising for this action and I have shown my anger by signing the petition. We are appalled by what has happened There seems no joined up thinking at the Council, just people making random decisions. If this was unsafe why not just repair it, or take out the unsafe bit? There was no need to take away the whole lot and leave the site bare.
“They talk about vandals, it is the Council that has carried out vandalism.”
His Labour counterpart was equally upset, but also laid the blame on the Council’s empty coffers.
Cllr Hipsey said: “I was disappointed there was no consultation over this. As ward councillors we were given less than 24 hours notice but then again, we are only elected councillors. What do we matter to officers? I have been hit with a deluge of complaints from residents, but I have had to tell them I only know as much as them.
“To an extent I can accept some degree of concern over health and safety issues but at the end of the day it’s only a bit of wood that needs replacing.
“Of course the origin of this is the fact that the previous administration frittered our council taxpayers’ money away by giving blank cheques to people like the interim chief executive Bob Comber. He and others have walked away with lots of cash and there’s nothing left in the pot for the people who matter, the residents.
“I do think the action in Ruskin Road is over the top, but it is extremely difficult for my colleagues in the Cabinet trying to sort out our financial mess and more things like this could happen, I’m afraid. However, I will be raising this issue in the hope of getting something sorted for Ruskin Road and I understand there may be the possibility of some financial assistance from outside to get this play equipment back.”
A Council spokesperson said: “The Council’s play team visited the site to carry out routine inspections of the aging Logworld units. The unit has suffered some small fires over the years, which has left the support legs weak and it is no longer safe and is beyond repair.
“Thurrock Council is sorry it has to remove any playground equipment in the borough, but at the moment there are no funds available for replacement. The Council is happy to work with residents to help find alternative sources of funding.”