17 April 2019
Lambeth Green Party councillors have joined parents and local campaigners in condemning Lambeth Labour’s decision to close five of the boroughs twenty-three Children’s Centres and drastically cut the hours of seven others.
The decision - which appears to have been made because of the need to underwrite the council’s reckless foray into property speculation through its estate demolition vehicle Homes for Lambeth - was made by the Labour run Cabinet on Monday night (15th April). The heated meeting saw Green Party councillors, as well as a number of Labour backbenchers and local MP Helen Hayes, speak out against the unnecessary closures.
Lambeth Council launched a consultation in December on their plans to make cuts to Children’s Centres. This was met with widespread opposition. The council’s own report noted that the majority of respondents to the consultation disagreed that the cuts met the Council’s objectives of “staying local” and “protecting the vulnerable” and that a large number were “calling for all centres to be kept open”. A petition urging the Council to rethink their plans has received over 2,000 signatures.
Campaigners have encouraged the Labour Cabinet to accept the proposal put forward by the Green Party to save all 23 Children’s Centres by increasing the Council’s reserves by less than is planned.
Councillor Nicole Griffiths (St Leonard’s) said:
“Research shows that every pound spent on early years care and education reaps benefits later in life. Closing Children’s Centres and cutting services will have a detrimental effect on the most vulnerable members of our community and is a false economy. High quality early years care and education sets children up to thrive at school and beyond.
“The £1.4 million a year needed to keep Children’s Centres open is available to the council. But instead it has chosen to hugely increase its reserves in an apparent attempt to try and deal with future financial risk. The council is currently undertaking vast and reckless borrowing - including a staggering £200m for its estate demolition scheme which is forecast to deliver losses of £22.6m in the first two years. The council should minimise its financial risk, end its estate demolition programme, and instead invest in front-line services. It has a choice not to implement Government cuts. It should take it.”