A row has erupted between councillors over playgrounds in York.
Labour councillors have accused the ruling Liberal Democrats of “quietly dropping” a scheme to fund upgrades to play areas based on how broken down the playgrounds are.
They say that the Lib Dems have instead put more cash to upgrading playgrounds in their own constituencies.
But the Lib Dems say all councillors, community groups and housing associations were invited to bid for cash from the funding pot, if match funding for the projects could be provided.
City of York Council has put £175,000 towards upgrading 29 play areas.
Plans were also agreed to spend £150,000 on a survey of all playgrounds to establish which ones were most in need of a revamp. But the plans were dropped and the money was spent on the community bids and extra resurfacing work instead.
Labour councillor Anna Perrett said: “The rules for how this fund for parks would operate were set in late 2019, but torn up some time in recent months to ensure largely Lib Dem held wards gained the most.
“It leaves wards that are in genuine need of investment without any funding, or with far less than they would potentially receive.
“Children should be supported equally through investment in play areas across the whole city, and not be the casualties of Lib Dem efforts to shore up votes in marginal wards where they are fighting with the Tories. It’s a completely unethical and unacceptable way of allocating public money.”
None of the funding was awarded in the city’s most deprived ward, Westfield, which also has a higher population of children than the average for York.
Acomb, Bishopthorpe, Fishergate, Hull Road and Micklegate wards also missed out on funding.
Cllr Perrett added: “A ward like Westfield with a higher proportion of children gets nothing, while the much more affluent Rural West York Ward, with an older demographic, gets four parks funded at a cost of over £35,000.
“Some of the worst play areas in the city expected to finally see major funding, yet once the rules were changed, received little more than £5,000, or nothing at all. Residents in these communities would be right to wonder why.”
Lib Dem councillor Darryl Smalley said: “As with so many projects, the pandemic changed the original plan, which would have seen £150,000 funding used to survey the city’s play areas.
“Whilst restrictions meant that this project had to be put on hold, the £100,000 community pot was launched, with councillors, community groups and parish councils urged to submit bids for improving their local play areas.
“The response to the community pot was incredible. The project was three times over-subscribed, highlighting the demand across York for better play equipment. Given the number of applications, clearly the scheme was understood by community partners and well-received.
“In order to ensure as many play areas benefit from improvements as possible, it was decided that £75,000 of the £150,000 surveying budget should be redirected to the community pot.
“This ensured that more direct improvements will be made, right across York, and ensuring that schemes submitted were still financially feasible on a 59% council contribution.
“The sad fact is, many of the Labour councillors complaining about this fantastic scheme simply didn’t bother completing a simple webform to apply for funding for their wards.
“Fortunately many other councillors and community groups did not sit on their hands and took action to ensure their area receives a major cash boost from this council scheme. As ward councillors, we should all be well aware of which play areas in our local communities need investment.”