A great many people have been awaiting with anticipation the result of a parish council vote on charging parkrun that could effectively spell the end of Little Stoke parkrun.
Sadly, the decision went against parkrun yesterday with the councillors voting 6 to 4 for imposing a fee. There were 2 abstentions. Personally, and this is my own opinion, I think that when a decision needs to be made no councillor should be allowed to abstain. They sit on councils to make decisions and in this case two of them have taken the easy way out.
Reaction on Twitter to the decision:
I was involved during the inception of Carlisle parkrun so I may be a little biased here but I feel that the Stoke Gifford parish councillors HAVE been a little short-sighted. It’s a sentence that’s consistently popped up during the conversations of the past few days. Even Paula Radcliffe has said that the council decision was short-sighted.
I’ve seen people rock up to parkrun feeling hesistant and unsure of what they can/can’t do. A year or two later they’re running 10k’s, half marathon’s and, in some cases, going further by running marathons. They’ve met friends in the community that were previously strangers and that they may not have met in other circumstances. parkrun not only brings people together in the community but it also provides a healthy initiative. Forgive me if I’m wrong but I’m pretty sure that councils get government funding to provide healthy initiatives. By imposing a fee Stoke Gifford parish council are effectively double dipping.
The councillors have consistently said that parkrun should apply for a grant but they appear to be missing the point that parkrun is a not for profit organisation.
We, as adults, are meant to provide positive role models to our children. parkrun does this in leaps and bounds. Children see people of all shapes, sizes and ages taking part in parkrun. As such it encourages them to take part as well. The ethos that anything is possible suddenly becomes real and lives can be transformed as a result.
BBC News reported – In a statement issued prior to the vote, the council said it did not want to discourage use of the park for exercise, but it would be “unfair” to expect residents to foot the bill for an event with “paid directors, fundraisers and sponsors”.
At Tuesday’s meeting, parish council chair Ernie Brown said: “People can come here any time they like”.
“Running, exercise – we welcome that. It’s a facility that anyone can use. But as an organisation, like any other organisation, they should pay towards the contribution for facilities,” he said.
Chief Operating Officer for parkrun Tom Williams said:
“We are extremely disappointed that Stoke Gifford Parish Council has voted to impose a charge at Little Stoke parkrun.
“parkrun has had unprecedented success in engaging the least active and encouraging them to exercise regularly. Providing free weekly access has been fundamental to this and we are disappointed that this opportunity is to be removed for the residents of Little Stoke.
“Our aim is to break down barriers to participation in, and delivery of, physical activity and this is consistent across 850 parkruns worldwide, which are all delivered by volunteers and are free to take part in. Imposing a charge at one event is something that contradicts our founding principles and would set a precedent that threatens our future.
“As a nation we must make a decision about whether we want to be healthier or not. The costs to all of us of inactivity and poor health are immense. parkrun has had enormous success at bringing communities together and promoting physical activity in safe and welcoming social environments.
“The past six months have been an uncertain and difficult time for everyone involved with Little Stoke parkrun and our entire global community of more than two million parkrunners is behind them as we discuss our next steps.”
I feel that Stoke Gifford parish council don’t understand parkrun and how the organisation runs. Maybe that’s a failure of parkrun not communicating it to them properly or maybe it’s not. Either way, the councillors are effectively trying to stop people exercising for free. If 300 people turned up not under the parkrun banner and ran in a park every week then the council couldn’t stop them as the council tax we pay provides these free spaces.
One thing I don’t understand is the following part of the statement:
“It would be “unfair” to expect residents to foot the bill for an event with “paid directors, fundraisers and sponsors”.
If we could all pick and choose what parts of the council tax we decided to pay for life would be a wonderful thing. There are many things here in Carlisle that the council funds via taxpayers money and I think to myself that spending that amount of money on this and that is ridiculous. But, it clearly helps a group of people somewhere otherwise the cost couldn’t be justified. Just because I’ll never use it doesn’t mean it isn’t helping someone somewhere.
In a time when councils are ripping up playgrounds and taking away play areas for kids just to save money I’d ask them what healthy initiatives are they providing?
The future is still uncertain for Little Stoke parkrun. There is a petition. Take a look and sign it if you feel it necessary.
The parkrun ethos remains the same; Free for everyone, always.