Feelings run high over closing centres
Councillors debate cutting back children’s service
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