101 PLAYGROUP – STOP-GAP FUNDING NOT THE ANSWER

Lib Dem councillor Laura Edge has welcomed news that Haringey Council have been looking into a solution to the current rent crisis playgroups are facing following the announcement of plans to increase rent by 300% to bring community group charges in line with commercial ones earlier this month.

However she says that the Labour-run council’s plan of offering means-tested grants to plug the gap created by the rent increase is insufficient.

The proposal outlined in an email yesterday states that the Council’s Early Years Department will be able to increase grant support to groups through the voluntary grant that is currently available. It goes on to say that it will “be able to increase grant up to the same level as the rent increase if it is felt appropriate.” The mechanism is yet to be worked out.

Cllr Edge and her colleague Cllr Lynne Featherstone, who have been lobbying Haringey Council to rethink its controversial rent increases, believe that the latest proposals do not go far enough to safeguard the future of playgroups in the borough.

The concern is that there is no explanation of on what basis funding will be deemed “appropriate”. There is also a fear that while in the past playgroups could plan their costs such as rent in advance, a means-tested grant could mean that playgroups will have to work on a year-to-year basis, unsure of what grant assistance they will receive for that year.

Lib Dems say there is also no explanation as to whether this grant is permanent or whether it is a political tool that is being used to soften the impact of a highly controversial rate increase and will be phased out over time.

Cllr Edge (Stroud Green) comments:

“Although the Council has been investigating possible solutions to this serious issue, the proposals, even at this early stage, seem unacceptable.”

Cllr Featherstone (Muswell Hill) adds:

“Playgroups and other essential community groups want assurances that they will not suffer as a result of these outrageous increases. Haringey Council has yet to convince them or me of this. We will continue to press until Haringey finds a solution that satisfies those groups affected.”