Story: Douglas Johnson | Photo: Lisa Swift
Burngreave residents went to the Full Council meeting at Sheffield Town Hall on 4th April to tell councillors they valued staff at Verdon Recreation Centre and Pitsmoor Adventure Playground.
Activity Sheffield was changing the staff structure to create higher-paid posts. This means fewer posts for the experienced staff already working there. Staff at both centres – and Highfields Adventure Playground in Sharrow – faced losing their jobs and didn’t know what the future held.
Verdon Recreation Centre
Parents and Friends of Pye Bank School brought a petition signed by 510 parents, young people and centre users. Zabeda Hussain, extended services co-ordinator at the school, addressed the councillors to explain Verdon Recreation Centre is an important venue in Burngreave. Aislinn Adams, the development worker, makes the centre accessible to users of all ages.She pointed out it takes years to build up trust with young people in the area. Zabeda called on councillors to confirm if there would be changes to jobs.
Lisa Swift spoke on behalf of 149 young people from Pitsmoor Advenutre Playground, who had signed a petition drawn up by 10 and 11 year-olds (Javien Allen, Millie Higgins, Skye Dawson- Hydes and Chanel Dawson). They felt it was not fair the staff were to be replaced with other staff.
Asafa Hussain and Saima Hussain asked questions from the public gallery about why staff were being replaced and why the community had not been consulted.
Councillor Helen Mirfin-Boukouris, the Cabinet member for Business, Growth and Jobs, stated, “we know how important the centres are to the children, which is why they weren’t cut in the Council’s budget.”
She promised to meet the petitioners, saying, “my job is to make sure the service is provided to the community and the children.”
At the meeting, Paul Billington, the Council's Director of Culture and Environment, stated there had been no budget cuts or reductions in the level of staffing overall and that the opening hours at both centres would remain the same. He told parents:
“We're aiming to increase usage at both centres. Verdon Recreation Centre and Pitsmoor Adventure Playground are relatively expensive compared with the number of people using them. The Council is constantly reviewing all its services in the light of reducing budgets. It's important that everything is done to increase footfall at these important sites.”
Activity Sheffield has also promised not to put charges up for use of Verdon Recreation Centre. Their focus will be to increase the number of people benefiting from them. They have promised to work with local groups and residents to make this happen.
Meanwhile, some of the staff affected have successfully re-applied for jobs with Activity Sheffield. At the Adventure Playground, one experienced member of staff has gone. Other posts remain unfilled in the new structure.