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