Parents fight to keep children’s centres open
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