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Crawley Council’s embarrassing U-turn after trying to charge fee for kids to walk through park

Plans for a schools charity walk almost had to be changed after council wanted to charge for walking through a park.

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Every year the students and staff at Ifield Community College take part in a sponsored walk to raise money.

It is called the Sarah Robinson Commemorative Sponsored Walk and takes the school from their site through to Tilgate Park and then back to the school.

This year however the school hit a problem. After informing the council of their route they were then presented with a fee.

The Council wanted to charge a fee of £234.50 to allow the school through Tilgate Park.

Immediately alarm bells rang and the school hit out questioning why such a charge was being applied and that it would have to come out of the funds raised by the students and affect the charity.

More questions were raised when Tilgate Councilor Francis Guidera stepped in after hearing about the issue and it was discovered that other activities such as the regular Sunday Park Run never gets charged by the council.

ICC put out a public statement on their facebook page explaining the situation and adding:

“We strongly believe this is very uncharitable and so therefore are looking into changing our walk.”

But local Cllr Guidera would not accept the decision of the council and took it upon himself to get it changed, even adding:

In one response to the schools post he said:

“I have spoken the Leader of the Council, Peter Lamb, with whom I get on well despite our political differences, and explained that the council does not charge Tilgate Park Run for the use of the park EVERY WEEKEND and that it is completely unacceptable to charge our own children to use a public park!!!”

The issue started to viral across social media through the town and the tension with residents around this grew steadily until finally the councillors efforts came to fruition as a post from Crawley Borough Council appeared as a response to ICC 7 hours after theirs.

It read:

“We have looked at this again and, while we have applied our policy correctly, we recognise that it does not necessarily cater for events such as this.

We have therefore taken the decision not to apply any charge for this event on this occasion. We will now reconsider our fees and charging policy for events to ensure a consistent and fair approach can be applied moving forward.”

An embarrassing u-turn but it has done more than question certain decisions the council make. To many it will actually demonstrate just how effective the community and their local councillors can be.

Leader of Crawley Borough Council Peter Lamb said:

“As soon as the issue was raised with me I ensured it was dealt with. Policies sometimes have unintended consequences and part of the role of councillors is to step in when that happens, which is what we’ve done here.”

Charity

Crawley boy receives pioneering kit to help with his disabilities

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Eleven-year-old Theakston Lee-Watson is among the first recipients of innovative new equipment to provide disabled children with sensory activities in their own home.

Theakston, from Crawley in Sussex, received the equipment from Caudwell Children as part of a UK-first charity campaign to deliver sensory equipment and support to disabled children across the country.

The sensory pack will provide a range of therapeutic benefits for Theakston, who has autism and sensory processing disorder, helping him regulate his emotions and develop his motor skills. 

Theakston’s mum, Kitty Lee-Watson, has already noticed the benefits the equipment brings.

Kitty said:

“He has a lot of anxiety at the moment, I now have the sensory pack out on his bedroom floor so when he has a meltdown it’s easy to guide him to something or distract him. This has been a real help.

“Theakston’s favourite part of the Get Sensory pack is the Fibre Optic Light as it’s both visual and tactile. He likes touching the fibres.”

Caudwell Children has pledged to provide thousands of families with essential sensory equipment during the Covid-19 pandemic – with each family receiving a pack of appropriate and safe toys to support children living with a wide range of disabilities. 

Trudi Beswick, CEO of Caudwell Children, said:

“Our Get Sensory Packs are designed to support children who are likely to benefit from sensory resources – it’s so encouraging to hear that Theakston is enjoying using the equipment and his family can see the benefits already.”

“We’ve committed to provide thousands of families with a pack, because we know it’s difficult to access resources at the moment.

“To deliver on that we’re now calling for anyone who can to make a difference to the life of a disabled child by donating to our Get Sensory Packs campaign – you can make a life-changing difference from just £5.”

Caudwell Children launched its Get Sensory Packs campaign following consultation with parents to find the most appropriate and safe sensory items – selected by the charity’s Occupational Therapists.

The packs include:

  • A Liquid Cell Timer,
  • Scented Bubbles,
  • A BoBo Massager,
  • Sissle Brush,
  • 4 Ball Massager,
  • Weighted Cushion,
  • Spikey Domes,
  • Space Blanket, and
  • A Fibre Optic Lamp.

Packs are available to children who have a confirmed disability or chronic illness. Families can apply directly to Caudwell Children for support, with the charity providing 80% of the cost of each pack.

Families will be asked to contribute 20% of the cost, which is £20, and to confirm their financial status and their child’s diagnosis. More information is available at getsensorypacks.com.

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