Long term funding for Playgrounds in Clare

The importance of Clare County Council having a properly planned financial model to ensure the ongoing sustainability of our community run playgrounds.

Published on April 4, 2023

Back in September 2020, I, along with my colleagues Cllr. Ian Lynch and Cllr. Joe Garrihy, brought a ‘notice of motion’ before the chamber asking that Clare County Council would look into taking all playgrounds in Clare under the local authority insurance… this was in response to the inability of some playgrounds to access insurance, and the huge burden insurance costs were placing on others to the detriment of their maintenance programs… the response was very positive from the CE and we are very grateful to him and his senior team and staff for embracing this shift in policy. It is having demonstrable benefits for communities across the county. The grants we now pay out to playgrounds can be put towards their on-going maintenance costs rather than straight out to external insurance companies.

However, my experience from the work I am involved in with the Kilkee Playground group, and discussions I have had with a number of other community playground committees, has shown the costs of upgrading equipment is becoming hugely challenging for voluntary community groups to manage on their own. The replacement of the primary piece of equipment in Kilkee is €65,000, many others are in the region of €10-25k, and while Clár grants go a significant way to contributing to these costs, there are only so much of these grants to go around in any one year, and there is a requirement to have these grants shared across the MDs of the county on an equitable basis.

However, this system of allocations isn’t based on a demonstrable ‘hierarchy of need’, because the council has not undertaken an assessment of each playground, the equipment they have and their current state of repair.

It is my belief, that if we are to ensure the long term future viability of these vital amenities that are so important to the health and wellbeing of our communities we need to get a clear understanding as to the long term maintenance and replacement costs associated with their operations… We cannot fix what we don’t measure.

A number of the things we need to measure include:

  • How many playgrounds do we have concerns about as to their immediate viability?
  • What are the estimated capital and operational costs per annum of ensuring the future sustainability of our playgrounds?
  • What is the cost/benefit of employing external contractors to do the work, versus the cost/benefits of training up and allocating in-house resources to do it?
  • Are there other works these in-house resources could do alongside the playground maintenance work to ensure better value for money?
  • I also queried the value of issue with regards to the importance of play, health and wellbeing, and the co-location of some of these amenities, ie. Outdoor gym, astroturf’s, MUGAs, with playground facilities… would it not be sensible to roll these into our insurance policy and maintenance program as well and could this action be assessed alongside the analysis work program?
  • Lastly, I asked for details as to how many claims have been made against playgrounds that have been brought in under the council’s insurance cover, given the oversight we have provided as part of inclusion in our Irish Public Bodies insurance policy as against those that are not? I think it’s a very important metric, one that gives us a clear indication as to the effectiveness and value of the implementation of this particular council policy.

It would be very remiss of me not to commend the work of John Treacy who has been working on the ‘nuts and bolts’ (sorry) of this project with all the community run playgrounds who have got involved. I know from my discussions with playground committees the value they place on his work and how he does his business.

I am very glad to see the response from the management team that this work would be undertaken, see details below of response to Notice of Motion No. 17 of the April 2023 meeting.

Item 17 – Cllr C. Murphy

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