Hundreds Protest as Council "Sneak Through Death Blow to Children's Centres"
Parents outraged as millions are slashed from child service budget
Hundreds of protestors, including members of Hammersmith & Fulham Parents Unite, gathered at the Town Hall in King Street on 18th April, ahead of a council cabinet meeting which was expected to rubber stamp plans to "reconfigure" its children's services.
The plan will slash over £3.4 milllion from the budget for children's centres, and will create a "hub and spoke" arrangement for H&F's 16 Sure Start children's centres.
Under this arrangement, six "hubs" - at Old Oak,
Fulham Central and
These "hubs" will receive funding of between £300,000 and £336,000 per year.
The remaining "spokes", which previously received between £104,000 and £250,000 per annum will now receive drastically reduced funds.
The Cathnor Park Centre is proposed as a "super-spoke", receiving £50,000 a year, though the council admits it has not yet been decided who will run it.
Wendell Park and New Kings centres will receive £25,000 each and Shepherds Bush Families Project £20,000, with additional funding from the housing department.
The other spokes will each receive just £19,000 a year. They are Broadway in Brook Green, Fulham South, Normand Croft, Bayonne Nursery, Bishop's Park and Sand's End Playhouse, which is to become Ray’s Playhouse, run by a local parents' group with substantial extra funding from a private donor.
The cuts have been condemned by Stephen Cowan, Leader of H&F's Labour Group of Councillors, who accuses the council of attempting to "sneak through the final death blow to H&F's Children's Centres during the Easter Break".
He adds that reducing annual budgets to only £19,000 in some centres leaves them, at best, only capable of a skeleton service.
"The long and short of all this is that the vast majority of the thousands of local families that currently benefit from Sure Start children's centres will be turned away," says Cllr Cowan.
His view is echoed by worried local families, including Ruthie Walsh, who is leading a vocal campaign to save Wendell Park Children's Centre, and is encouraging other parents to join tonight's protest with a Buggy Push.
She says: " Hammersmith & Fulham Parents Unite invite you to join us in a peaceful rally, and to hear our petition presentation to LBH&F Cabinet.They are voting on the future of our Children's Centres.
" Ten Children's Centres have had their budgets slashed by up to 92%! £19,000 a year does not keep a Centre 'open' as claimed."
Youth clubs in the borough have also been hit by cuts, with only three out of seven remaining open.
The council however, is defending these cuts. Cllr Helen Binmore, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, says: " In these unprecedented financial times it is right to target precious resources on the most vulnerable families.
“Councils across the country are having to look innovatively at how children’s centres operate in order to ensure that every penny spent is used in the most efficient and effective way."
April 18, 2011