Protest falls on deaf ears
UNANIMOUS APPROVAL GIVEN TO CLOSURE OF CHILDREN’S CENTRES
COUNCILLORS in Hillingdon gave unanimous approval to a raft of proposed budget cuts this week, including the closure of two children’s centres.
The move comes despite vocal opposition from parents and opposition councillors who felt moved to hold a protest rally before the council met to discuss its budget.
On Monday February 20 around 60 protesters wielded placards and chanted outside the doors of the Hillingdon Council offices in Uxbridge from 10am.
The protest was held to oppose the council’s budget cuts to children’s centre services that will see two of the 18 centres close down. There will also be changes to staffing to reduce expenditure by £415,000.
Mum-of-one, Kirsten Waters, was one of those protesting.
She has been taking her one-yearold son to the Cherry Lane Children’s Centre in West Drayton since he was two weeks old.
The 32-year-old said: “We were protesting to show the council that their proposed cuts to the children’s centres budget will have effects on many families in the borough.
“I worry that there will be cuts to many of the sessions offered by the centres – for some families this is the only social interaction the children get.
“For new mums this also helps get them out of the house and meet other mums who they can share their experiences with.
“I feel the best solution would be for the council to leave the services as they are.
“Research has shown that these early years in a child’s life are vital, by cutting these services from these children now could cost the council more in years to come.”
Hillingdon Council is cutting £415,000 from its children’s services budget – a reduction of £200,000 in children centre expenditure and a further £215,000 described as a review of the children centre delivery model.
The council said the cuts are being made to find a more efficient service in order to meet the strain on its budget.
This will include the closures of centres at Uxbridge College in Coldharbour Lane, Hayes and Hillside Primary School in Northwood Way, Northwood from April 2017.
News of the closure caused uproar among parents who use the facilities, which run services including respite childcare, counselling and breast-feeding courses.
Mum-of-one, Roo Lehto from Yiewsley , uses the Colham Manor Children’s Centre in Hillingdon.
The 41-year-old said: “I thought it was wonderful to see so many mums and staff at the protest [on Monday] and was especially grateful for the Labour councillors who came along to support us. I worry about staff cuts and losing vital support from dedicated professionals and their established relationships and understanding with the families who currently frequent the centres.
“The ideal solution is to leave the children’s centre programme as it is and consider how vital for the future of the borough the safeguarding of children’s services is.”
During the council’s budget meeting on February 23 Labour councillor called for an ammendment to the budget, saying: “We feel that we are now on the precipice. The cuts made to services in the borough are pushing us over the edge.”
The borough’s Labour group put forward three changes, creating two new job roles to tackle anti-social behaviour in the borough, particularly in the south, abolishing the children’s burial charge for families in the borough, and removing children’s centre cuts.
However, after around two hours and 15 minutes of debate the budget was passed unanimously without ammendment.
Leader of the council, Ray Puddifoot, said: “We have frozen tax while maintaining frontline services while many have not.”
“[We are] improving services at the same time building up financial reserves to deal with the challengers that lie ahead of us.”
He added: “What we have achieved and continue to achieve in Hillingdon in the current economic climate is remarkable.
“We do not underestimate the financial challenges we, as a council, still have deal with.
“This is a first class budget for a first class borough.”
Campaigners held placards and chanted outside Hillingdon Council offices
Parents and some borough councillors oppose the proposed closure of two children’s centres