Thursday, 26 May 2011

Sure Start cuts: H&F Council taken to court

Parents have served our Council with papers at the High Court seeking permission to launch a Judicial Review of the decision to radically cut spending on the Sure Start service for families with young children in our borough, according to the BBC.

Our Council have drastically reduced the funding available to most Sure Start centres in H&F by introducing what they call a  "hub and spoke" system whereby a few lucky centres retain funding but those considered "spokes" on the periphery lose most of their resources. Because the actual number of centres remain the Council claims that this does not represent a cut in Sure Start provision.

In H&F the protests against these cuts were led by mothers such as Ruth Walsh who wrote this very moving account on the Blog of how the cuts would affect her and her son at Wendell Park. When I offered the Council a 'right of reply' to what she had written they simply sent me an old press release, which illustrated how much they intended to listen to mothers like Ruth. No matter, she took the protests all the way to Downing Street and picketed Hammersmith Town Hall with buggies. Twice.

Now it appears that the Council were in so much haste to shrink the service they actually announced the cuts before the "consultation" period had ended, thus making a mockery of the idea of a consultation at all. And it is this that the lawyers have seized on as evidence that their decisions were illegal.

The Council, for their part, say they will contest the legal action "robustly" and deny any wrong doing.

You have to think that the stakes in this legal action are immensely high. Probably what will happen if the action is successful is that the Council will simply launch another 'consultation' exercise and reach exactly the same pre cooked conclusions, implementing the same scheme anyway. But the political damage to the reputation of the authority would be considerable as a long drawn out battle in the Courts would inevitably attract a lot of attention.

Coming on top of the Judicial Review being launched over the Council's plans to destroy the Goldhawk Road shops and build seven floors of flats on top of the Market this is looking set to be a summer in the courts between our Council and its' residents.

31ST MAY UPDATE - The Fulham Chronicle have caught up with this story here


  1. Good on the parents who use Sure Start!

    Hammersmith and Fulham council need to start realising they are playing with people's futures with all the cuts they are making.

    If money needs to be drummed up don't cut much needed local services, raise Council Tax. After all, as H&F's website proudly proclaims, Council Tax in the borough hasn't been raised for the last 4 years and, prior to this year when it was frozen, for the other 3 it was actually lowered.

    But that would be a vote loser wouldn't it, for the middle classes H&F so desperately want in the borough? Increased Council Tax payments = less money for the tennis club and Barnaby's private school fees. For the Tories a contest between the tennis club plus Barnaby not having to mix with the poor and the shutting down of a few Sure Starts is no contest at all.

  2. I congratulate those who are launching the Judicial Review. Even if they end up doing the same thing over again, I hope the publicity serves to shame them as they deserve.