A damning report of health and safety in Croydon’s parks has revealed the council failed to carry out inspections and risk assessments which could have led to accidents and injuries.
A review identified significant weaknesses in key areas in the inspections of playground equipment, paths, lighting and the facilities within the borough’s 127 parks and greenspaces.
The council is currently consulting on plans to reduce the cost of maintenance in parks even further under proposed savings that it needs to make in the wake of going bankrupt.
The highly critical internal review by auditors Mazars revealed more than half of the weekly visual playground inspection reports – of a sample of ten parks – for the months of October, November 2019 and January 2020, were missing.
Auditors were told that the department didn’t have the staffing levels to carry out the required risk assessments but management said they were aiming to put place a proposed action plan to ensure the Health and Safety of its parks and greenspaces was ‘fit for purpose’ by September 2021.
In addition to training up more staff to carry out playground inspections a Play Development officer was appointed to ensure compliancy.
The audit was conducted as part of an Internal Audit Plan for 2019/20 prior to the Covid-19 pandemic which was published in August prior to the council issuing a Section 114 banning all new spending.
During the lockdowns parks have seen a dramatic increase in people visiting parks which has placed a greater demand on services with the council’s grounds maintenance team collecting up to 300 extra bags of rubbish a day.
Worryingly, the report also identified that fire risk assessments of park buildings were not regularly reviewed putting the council in breach of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
The auditors warned that because visual inspections reports were not available the Council “may be unable to demonstrate due diligence in case of accidents involving damaged or unsafe playground equipment.”
Similarly, where risk assessments were not in place for all parks and greenspaces, it meant there was a risk that hazards would not be identified and eliminated, which could lead to “accidents and injuries.“
At the beginning of March 2020, 69 of the 116 parks and greenspaces had not been visited to conduct risk assessments and action plans had only been put in place for five of the 47 parks that had been visited.
Facilities Management is responsible for arranging the various health and safety assessments of buildings which include fire risk assessments, water safety assessments and asbestos register assessments.
Records for a sample of 11 of the parks and greenspaces found that three of the fire risk assessments (for Ashburton Park, Norwood Grove and Queens Gardens) were carried out more than 10 years ago.
The council was also criticised for not having a Parks Strategy or management plans for its parks and greenspaces.
To read the audit report in full click here
What are Croydon’s savings proposals for parks and open spaces click here.
To comment on the council’s savings proposals click here. The consultation closes on January 24.