ALMOST 7,000 children could soon see their play schemes scrapped as Swindon Council reveals the full extent of its budget slashing proposals.

The council has now published where the axe could fall to make the savings needed to cover the £45million shortfall over the next three years and cuts from central Government grants.

One of the most controversial proposals is to withdraw the annual play service budget which funds eight free play schemes across the town for children between the ages of six and 14.

Last year 6,965 children used the Play Service, which includes clubs and groups in Penhill, Gorse Hill, Blunsdon, Parks and Pinehurst.

The other proposals include closing the County Ground Lifestyle Centre, a massive overhaul of day care services in a bid to save £750,000 next year, slashing the Connexions service, only open the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery for four days a week, change the opening hours of Swindon Direct and review the Connect Supported Employment service which helps people with learning difficulties find jobs.

Marilyn Beale, secretary of the Penhill Forum, whose members come from various community groups on the estate, said: “It is just ridiculous. It seems to me that all the cuts that are proposed are going to hit the young people.

“All the cuts are aimed at that group, the most vulnerable, and we can see the effects on the ground.

“It is all very well seeming very noble because you are making hard decisions but it is not very noble at all because we see the effects when the schemes are cut.

“The benefit of the schemes is there is a few hours of structured play there children are not just hanging around banging balls against a wall.

“They are actually looked after by qualified play workers and we always value play workers in Penhill.”

She added: “If play schemes in the area ran for 30 to 40 hours a week and they were cut we would take it on the chin – but what cuts can you make on six hours?

“They should be ashamed of themselves for having that little provision in the first place, let alone cutting it.”

Councillor David Renard, cabinet member for Children’s Services, said the cuts would be tough but they will not act before listening to the views of the people in the town.

He said: “There are difficult decisions ahead and we need everyone’s views – not just those people who use the services which might go.

“We have to look forward to the future and how we can make the savings.

“We are looking at services that people would be prepared to sacrifice to save something else.

“This is not a black and white decision – we want to know what the people who use the service and, in fact, those who don’t, think about it.

“We want to know what other options people come up with – some might be to start charging for the services, another might be letting the community run them and taking the responsibility away from the council.

“It is always incredibly difficult when you are looking to cut services – especially those used by children.

“I would say that there are other activities that children in the area could do – joining the scouts could just be one of them.

“I would stress that the play services is not about the maintenance and upkeep of play areas – this is a different budget.”

All of the public comments, which have to be submitted by September 17, will be discussed at the Cabinet meeting on September 22 before the full council meeting on October 7.

Leader of Swindon Council, Coun Rod Bluh, said: “The huge financial challenges facing the public sector cannot have escaped anyone’s attention in recent months.

“What I hope is that everyone now realises that it will probably affect them or their families personally.

“It will mean big changes to the council services they use and, perhaps, take for granted.

“So, please take time to read what we say, because you might have ideas or practical help that you can contribute in return. We’re all in this together and we all need to understand the challenge.”

Coun Derique Montaut, leader of the Swindon Labour group said: “This Conservative administration have decided to put the axe to frontline services, which will affect the most vulnerable in our community and will have a major impact on our town’s youth, in particular.

“I am really disappointed they have decided to do this when the council’s hospitality budget, communications budget, furniture and fittings budget and consultancy budget appear to be left untouched.

“This completely undermines the council’s and government’s mantra of ‘we’re all in this together’. The particularly frustrating aspect of these cuts is that they have no regard for the way this town will tackle its deficit, which is by investing in our town’s future and making sure that our young people have the right skills to make Swindon a more prosperous place”

For the full list of the proposed budget cuts, log onto

To have your say, e-mail the council at communications@ or write to them at: Communications Service, Swindon Borough Council, Civic Offices, Euclid Street, Swindon, SN1 2JH.