Anger as Sure Start Cuts are Rubber Stamped
Labour Party joins MP in criticising council
The Labour Party's Shadow Education Team has joined MP Andy Slaughter in slamming Hammersmith and Fulham Council for cutting £3.2 million from its budget for children's services, despite protests from local residents.
The "restructuring " plans, voted through at a Town Hall cabinet meeting this week, were first revealed in a report contained in the agenda for the meeting.
The report revealed that the plans would mean cutting direct funding to nine out of 15 Sure Start children's centres in the borough, and "contracting out" provision to the remaining centres, either to schools or private sector providers.
The report also admitted that the plans would lead to around 50 people losing their jobs, costing around £600,000 in redundancy payments.
However, at the cabinet meeting, Cllr Helen Binmore, cabinet member for children's services, insisted that no Sure Start centres are to be closed and one new one, the Avonmore Neighbourhood Centre, is to be opened in the building which currently houses Barons Court Library.
This left people attending the meeting wondering how exactly this "expanded network" will be achieved on a drastically reduced budget, as Cllr Binmore talked of using a "hub and spoke system".
In a press release the next day, the council said that it intends to share the running of all 16 centres with schools, community and voluntary organisations and health providers.
However, with no details of how this will happen, the future of the Sure Start centres, which provide care and support for families with children under six, remains uncertain - especially as the council has reportedly appointed real estate agents BNP Paribas to assess alternative uses for a number of centres.
By cutting this funding, Hammersmith and Fulham Council would appear to be at odds with Government policy, which promised that Sure Start funding would be protected.
Mr Slaughter, referring scornfully to "hot air" at a "farcical" meeting, says he is pleased to have the backing of Labour's Shadow Education team in campaigning to protect funding for Sure Start.
Shadow Children’s Minister Sharon Hodgson says: " The Coalition promised before and after the election that Sure Start would be protected, yet their actions and the actions of their party colleagues in Hammersmith and Fulham show a complete lack of commitment to a service which millions of children and their families depend on.
" Money spent on programmes like Sure Start is a direct investment in the future of our children, yet all the Government can do is shrug their shoulders while councils carry out their cuts."
Hammersmith and Fulham Council says it plans to launch a public consultation on the detailed changes at each of the centres.
January 14, 2011