Conservative councillors have today voted in favour of going ahead with a consultation to close 19 children’s centres, including Homerton Children’s Centre in Holbrook Road.
The centres themselves were only told last Tuesday, just as a public consultation is about to start.
In Cambridge, the Tories will also close children’s centres at Romsey Mill, Fawcett, and Cherry Hinton, which they say are ‘not needed’. Families are expected to travel to other areas– eg Homerton families are directed to the Central Library in the city centre. Quite a distance if you are taking small children, and an extra cost if you have to pay bus fares or park in town.
The proposals have been met with anger and indignation by local people. A petition calling for a halt to the proposals has gained nearly 1,000 signatures in just 2 days.
Today I attended the County Council’s Children & Young People Committee and told them:
“Homerton Children’s Centre not only supports the excellent nursery education, but it provides a range of vital services to families: baby clinics and benefits advice and, at the sharp end, they deal with cases of mental health and domestic abuse.
If these services are taken away, the needs will not disappear but will still have to be met, by the NHS, the police and the councils. The Council’s £1m saving will cost that and more to other services, as well as the cost to quality of life.
It’s hard to see how families are going to access services easily if they have to go all the way into town to Central Library. This will not only turn a short visit into a lengthy trip in and out of town, but it will mean families have to pay for bus fares or parking. In practice, this will reduce the take-up from those who most benefit from the services.”
To make matters worse, the council’s consultation will run through the school holidays, 17th July – 22nd September – the worst possible time for families.
Liberal Democrats on the committee asked for the proposals to be sent back for more work, and for the consultation to be delayed until the beginning of next term but were outvoted by the Conservatives, who voted en bloc to go ahead.
We will continue to oppose these proposals to close children’s centres and to challenge the assumptions behind them. If you would like to join our campaign, please sign our petition opposing the closures, and follow our Facebook page Cambridgeshire Children’s Centres campaign.