I propose to take Questions Nos. 128 to 134, inclusive, together.
I refer to the reply to Question No. 151 of 3 February. Section 67 of the Local Government Act 2001 empowers local authorities to promote the interests of the local community in relation to amenity, recreation and other functions. This includes the provision of playgrounds and play areas. It is a matter for each local authority to determine the extent to which playgrounds and play areas should be provided and to allocate resources accordingly. There is no specific provision for the funding of local authority playgrounds in my Department's Vote. However, it provides significant financial support to local authorities through the local government fund that is usable at the discretion of the authority.
The provision of open spaces, recreational facilities and amenity areas in local authority housing schemes is also a matter for housing authorities in the first instance. Certain facilities of this kind may be funded from my Department's capital allocations where the work is undertaken in conjunction with the provision of new local authority housing or the refurbishment of existing housing under the remedial works scheme.
In 1987 my Department issued a parks policy for local authorities. It outlined a national policy for the provision, development, administration and maintenance of a graded system of parks, open spaces and outdoor recreation areas by local authorities. In November 1998 it also advised local authorities of the need to ensure that equipment and surface materials used in local authority playgrounds and in play areas for children in new and existing local authority housing estates conform with appropriate standards.
Decisions on the assignment of functions to, and the training of, any member of staff of a local authority are a matter for local authority managers and I have no function in the matter. The same applies to the section of the local authority that is responsible for playgrounds. In most local authorities playgrounds are the responsibility of the director of services with responsibility for the environment.