Feel­ings run high over clos­ing cen­tres

Coun­cil­lors de­bate cut­ting back chil­dren’s ser­vice

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS - By Alexan­der Ballinger alexan­der.ballinger@trin­i­tymir­ror.com

THE re­cent an­nounce­ment of plans to close two chil­dren’s cen­tres in Hilling­don has sparked a pas­sion­ate de­bate on both sides of the coun­cil.

Both Con­ser­va­tive and Labour coun­cil­lors agreed on the im­por­tance of ser­vices pro­vided by the fa­cil­i­ties across the bor­ough, how­ever a row has bro­ken out over the pro­posed re­struc­ture that in­volves clo­sures of cen­tres in Hayes and Northwood.

Hilling­don Coun­cil has been at the cen­tre of con­tro­versy over the plans after it was ac­cused of ly­ing about its ‘no cuts to ser­vices’ pledge, and there re­mains a ques­tion mark over the rea­sons for the cen­tre clo­sures.

Speak­ing at the full coun­cil meet­ing on Thurs­day Jan­uary 19 at the Uxbridge Civic Cen­tre, Labour coun­cil­lor Peter Money said: “Chil­dren’s cen­tres play a cru­cial role in im­prov­ing out­comes for young chil­dren and their fam­i­lies through re­duc­ing in­equal­i­ties. They bridge the gap.

“The Cherry Lane cen­tre [in West Dray­ton] has been de­scribed as ex­cel­lent by ser­vice users with the cen­tre be­ing fur­ther de­scribed as a life­line and a sec­ond home by many par­ents.

“Hard-pressed par­ents are even will­ing to make con­tri­bu­tions if it means it will sus­tain the cen­tre.

“I would also like to add that the Hilling­don Peo­ple magazine’s help head­line states that coun­cil tax is fixed and no cuts to ser­vices. “This is a ser­vice cut.” Re­struc­tur­ing the ser­vice would also bring all of the bor­ough’s 16 re­main­ing chil­dren’s cen­tres un­der the coun­cil’s con­trol, in­stead of a num­ber of dif­fer­ent providers as is cur­rently the sit­u­a­tion.

The coun­cil said the clo­sures were sparked by the land­lords Uxbridge Col­lege and Hill­side Pri­mary School re­fus­ing to re­new leases, but both said they op­pose clos­ing the chil­dren’s cen­tres.

This em­broiled the coun­cil in con­tro­versy after it was ac­cused of ly­ing when it re­leased a state­ment in De­cem­ber last year that said there would be no planned fa­cil­ity clo­sures or cuts to ser­vices.

The state­ment was re­leased four days after Hilling­don Coun­cil an­nounced plans to close two chil­dren’s cen­tres.

Hilling­don Coun­cil re­it­er­ated this state­ment in its Hilling­don Peo­ple magazine.

Deputy leader of Hilling­don Coun­cil and the cabi­net mem­ber

Hard­pressed par­ents are even will­ing to make con­tri­bu­tions if it means it will sus­tain the cen­tre”

re­spon­si­ble for ed­u­ca­tion and chil­dren’s ser­vices, David Sim­monds, has de­fended the coun­cil’s po­si­tion.

He said: “I think those points have been made with pas­sion and I think we need to re­spect that but we also need to re­spect the fact that as a coun­cil we need to make the right de­ci­sions that place our ser­vices on a sus­tain­able foot­ing.

“There are some fan­tas­tic pro­grammes out there which are run at many of our chil­dren’s cen­tres, there are oth­ers which are proven in many very good qual­ity stud­ies – in­clud­ing ran­domised con­trol tri­als – to be a waste of money and to achieve noth­ing for the peo­ple who use them.

“We need to make sure the re­sources, in a time when those re­sources are not abun­dant, are fo­cused on the things that make the big­gest dif­fer­ence and on the peo­ple who need that help the most.

“That is the pur­pose of this re­view and what this ad­min­is­tra­tion will carry on with.”

The de­bate was sparked by West Dray­ton ward coun­cil­lor Jan Sweet­ing, who tabled a mo­tion call­ing for the coun­cil to seek fund­ing from all avail­able sources to pro­tect the ser­vices.

View the video from the coun­cil de­bate at getwest­lon­don.co.uk

HEATED DE­BATE: Hilling­don coun­cil­lors dis­cussed the pro­posed clo­sures of two chil­dren’s cen­tres at the full coun­cil meet­ing on Thurs­day night

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