Par­ents fight to keep chil­dren’s cen­tres open

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS - by AMITA JOSHI amita.joshi@trin­i­tymir­ror.com Twit­ter: @ami­ta­joshi

Ev­ery cen­tre has dif­fer­ent needs and we’re very con­cerned about the long-term ef­fects Par­ents Kirsten Wal­ters

MOUNT­ING pres­sure against Hilling­don Coun­cil’s de­ci­sion to axe two chil­dren’s cen­tres has reached new lev­els af­ter a protest was due to be held on Mon­day (Fe­bru­ary 20).

A group of par­ents af­fected by changes at the Cherry Lane Chil­dren’s Cen­tre held the peace­ful protest in Uxbridge as part of a fight to keep chil­dren’s cen­tres open in the bor­ough.

Hilling­don Coun­cil is plan­ning to close cen­tres at Uxbridge Col­lege in Cold­har­bour Lane, Hayes, and at Hill­side Pri­mary School in North­wood Way, North­wood, from April 2017.

Al­though the Cherry Lane cen­tre is not ear­marked for clo­sure, school staff and par­ents have said the coun­cil changes to chil­dren ser­vices will be ‘detri­men­tal’.

Par­ent Kirsten Wal­ters, who has been a part of a fo­rum ac­tively op­pos­ing the coun­cil’s propo­si­tions, told the Gazette: “We feel changes will, in the long run, be detri­men­tal.

“At the mo­ment the school helps run it and it’s bril­liant be­cause if there are any is­sues the cen­tre and the school can work to­gether be­fore the pupil even be­gins there.

“Ev­ery cen­tre has dif­fer­ent needs and we’re very con­cerned about the long-term ef­fects.”

She added: “We de­cided that since we have tried ev­ery other way we know how of let­ting the coun­cil know, we as the res­i­dents of Hilling­don would like to be put first and for them not to go ahead with all the changes and cut to the cen­tres in the bor­ough.

“We have sent many emails to the coun­cil and had pe­ti­tions sub­mit­ted, which were heard at the pe­ti­tion hear­ing, al­though those that were meant to be hear­ing the pe­ti­tions didn’t even ap­pear to be lis­ten­ing to what was be­ing said to them.”

The pro­pos­als come as part of a £415,000 sav­ing to the coun­cil’s bud­get, con­sist­ing of £200,000 sav­ings from ‘chil­dren cen­tre ex­pen­di­ture’ and £215,000 de­scribed as a ‘re­view of chil­dren cen­tre de­liv­ery model’. Each cen­tre serves around 800 to 1,000 chil­dren un­der the age of five. The news of the planned clo­sures has caused up­roar among par­ents who use the fa­cil­i­ties, which run a range of ser­vices in­clud­ing respite child­care, coun­selling and breast-feed­ing cour­ses. School staff and par­ents gath­ered at the Uxbridge Civic Cen­tre on Wed­nes­day Fe­bru­ary 1 evening to ex­press their anger and dis­ap­point­ment at a hear­ing, which saw nine pe­ti­tions de­liv­ered to the coun­cil.

Coun­cil­lor David Sim­monds, deputy leader of Hilling­don Coun­cil, said about the bud­gets on the night of the hear­ing: “As a coun­cil we have to set a bud­get each year and each year we need to make that bud­get bal­anced.

“We look to do that the best way we can by re­view­ing ev­ery as­pect of ser­vices that the coun­cil pro­vides.

“Whilst I am con­cerned about the im­pact it will have on in­di­vid­u­als, I make no apol­ogy for the fact that on be­half of our res­i­dents we will al­ways do that.

“We will al­ways try to see if there’s a bet­ter, more ef­fi­cient way to do what we can.”

The chil­dren’s cen­tres at Uxbridge Col­lege (this pic­ture) and Hill­side Pri­mary (be­low) are to be axed; (left) the pe­ti­tion against the plan

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