Monday, 18 April 2011

Sure Start cuts: Buggy protestors return

Baby buggies will again picket Hammersmith Town Hall at 6.15pm this evening as councillors meet to rubber stamp the cuts to Sure Start that were agreed at this meeting recently. This isn't the first time Conservative councillors have had to run the fearsome gauntlet of angry mothers with buggies and babies and I suspect it might not be the last.

Speaking to me Ruth Walsh, who wrote this very personal post on the blog about how the cuts will impact on her and her child, said:

"Although there will be lots of mums/dads etc with buggies, it is a demo for EVERYONE.... everyone will eventually be affected by these cuts.  The children of today are the teenagers of tomorrow and the adults of next year (or so!)... "

"10 Children's centres have had their budgets slashed by up to 92%! £19,000 a year does not keep a Centre "open" as claimed!"
That last point is a reference to the Council's line, which is that although there will be a large amount of money cut from the budget and staff lost, the authority will be providing what they call a "hub and spoke" operation that keeps centres open. The question that opposition councillors have asked, however, is the point of keeping centres open without enough staff or resources to provide the services that families need.

In response to Ruth's post the Council simply referred me to an old article weblink rather than address the concerns directly, which itself speaks volumes.

Austerity Britain indeed..

Friday UPDATE: As expected the Council voted the cuts through and there will now be a series of staff cutbacks and severe budget cuts to the SureStart programme. There were predictable calls for resignations, directed principally at the Cabinet Member responsible Cllr Helen Binmore, but here is the version from Ruth Walsh who I think deserves the last word after her herculean campaign that in truth never stood a chance against this Council:
"When it came to the Cabinet actually making the decision to Agree / Disagree with the proposed restructuring of the Children's Centre offering.... all the Chairman did was say "So, is that Agreed?"   And 5 Cabinet members said "Agreed".   And that was it!   Not a single word of discussion or debate between the Cabinet members prior to the vote, despite an hour of questioning of our Deputee, Kate Aubrey-Johnson."

"Only 2000 families will be able to access the Children's Centres As confirmed by Director of Children's Services, Andrew Christie.   He actually said the figures will go from 13,000 accessing services now, down to 2,000..."

"No doubt all of this will be reflected in the minutes".
No, no doubt at all.


  1. I had the opportunity to listen to the petition presentation that Ruth led at the Education Select meeting last week. It was moving, offered suggestions, asked for specific kinds of alternatives to be considered, and commented very specifically on the numerous deficiencies in the consultation process, which seems to represent only 9% of users. Ruth's petition offered constructive suggestions and Ruth was able to double that number and more.

    There is no way that these spokes will be able to remain open. I worry the reality is that they'll end up closing rather rapidly, with the buildings put into the Property Disposal programme and sold.

  2. Of course. You only have to look at what's happening to any other non-housing/office space in London to see that it's being demolished (the "Earls Court" effect).