‘Sold out’

ANGER AS TWO CHIL­DREN’S CEN­TRES ARE TO CLOSE DOWN BY THE END OF THE MONTH

Harefield Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - by ALEXANDER BALLINGER alexander.ballinger@trin­i­tymir­ror.com Twit­ter: @amb­hack

CHIL­DREN’S cen­tres planned for clo­sure in Hilling­don will be shut down at the end of March, it has been an­nounced.

Hilling­don Coun­cil re­vealed the cen­tres in Hayes and North­wood will be closing their doors for good on March 31 be­cause of a fail­ure to reach a lease agree­ment with the land­lords.

The coun­cil’s cab­i­net will be meet­ing on Thurs­day March 16 to make a fi­nal de­ci­sion on re­struc­tur­ing chil­dren’s ser­vices in the bor­ough.

Changes in­clude bring­ing all of the cen­tres un­der coun­cil man­age­ment and op­er­at­ing a ‘spoke and hub’ model with five lead cen­tres co­or­di­nat­ing ser­vices.

The changes have been op­posed by many par­ents and politi­cians.

Labour MP for Hayes and Har­ling­ton John McDon­nell said: “Just at a time when we were led to be­lieve that Hilling­don’s Con­ser­va­tive coun­cil was hav­ing a re­think of its plans to cut the bud­get for our chil­dren’s cen­tres, they have forced it through at the re­cent coun­cil meet­ing.”

The Shadow Chan­cel­lor added: “This has been in the teeth of op­po­si­tion from lo­cal par­ents and teach­ers.

“These Con­ser­va­tive councillors have sold out the fu­ture of our lo­cal chil­dren.

“These cuts will in­evitably im­pact on the op­por­tu­nity they have for early years ed­u­ca­tion and the sup­port for both chil­dren and their fam­i­lies that these cen­tres pro­vide.

“These are life­lines for par­ents. It is a dis­grace­ful act by this Tory coun­cil.”

The Uxbridge Col­lege Chil­dren’s Cen­tre, in Cold­har­bour Lane, Hayes, and the Hill­side Chil­dren’s Cen­tre, in North­wood Way, North­wood, will be shut down at the end of the month.

Par­ents and cam­paign­ers have pas­sion­ately op­posed the clo­sures and changes, hold­ing a protest out­side the coun­cil of­fices in Uxbridge last month.

A group of pro­test­ers were ejected from the Hilling­don Coun­cil meet­ing held last month af­ter they heck­led from the pub­lic gallery and one stormed into the coun­cil cham­ber.

The land­lord of the Hill­side cen­tre, Hill­side Pri­mary School, pre­vi­ously claimed the cen­tre was closing not be­cause of is­sues over the lease, but be­cause of bud­get cuts.

In a let­ter sent to par­ents, the school said that other schools in the bor­ough had not signed leases but would re­main open.

A state­ment from the land­lord of the Hayes cen­tre, Uxbridge Col­lege, said: “As stated in the let­ter to the coun­cil from Uxbridge Col­lege’s board of gov­er­nors, we ob­ject to the clo­sure of the chil­dren’s cen­tre and are sorry to hear this de­ci­sion is likely to be fi­nalised at the meet­ing of the cab­i­net on March 16.”

Coun­cil­lor David Sim­monds, Hilling­don Coun­cil’s cab­i­net mem­ber for ed­u­ca­tion and chil­dren’s ser­vices, said: “We re­ally value feed­back from our chil­dren’s cen­tres pro­gramme from the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

“It’s won­der­ful to hear that these ser­vices are so highly val­ued by fam­i­lies, and we will en­deav­our to meet the need of par­ents and chil­dren across the bor­ough.

“Res­i­dents have told us that they want con­sis­tent, flex­i­ble and co­or­di­nated fam­ily sup­port, which meets the needs es­pe­cially of the most vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren and their fam­i­lies, but the cur­rent man­ner in which staff are de­ployed and or­gan­ised doesn’t al­low for this in all ar­eas.

“We now need to work with pro­gramme staff to re­or­gan­ise the way we de­ploy staff and re­sources so that we can best meet and pri­ori­tise need.”

Pro­test­ers had been cam­paign­ing about the pro­posed cuts

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