Friday, 4 April 2008

The myth of school playing field sales

Last Sunday's Observer was at it again. Claims that the government has been 'selling off' school playing fields were repeated. These claims have entered the ether as an indisputable 'truth' about Labour's record. And they are bunkum. The first ever protection of school playing fields was introduced in 1998 - it has been tightened further since. Those protections haven't meant no sales, but they do mean that the sale must lead to better sports facilities, something the absurd attacks wilfully ignore. The main critics of school playing field sales in the 1990s have acknowledged that the situation is very different from the Conservative years when 10,000 playing fields were sold. Indeed they have helped to design the tough rules, and Sport England must approve any sales. So, to realise quite how absurd the charges are now, do read all of Kevin Brennan's factual written statement on the subject this week, where he explained precisely how the proceeds of the handful of sales each year of what the Government calls "Areas of Land Capable of Being Used as a Small Sports Pitch" (since many of the sold 'playing fields' are actually overgrown and not used as playing fields at all) are being used.

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