17 May 2019
Green Party Councillors joined parents and Children’s Centre staff last night (16th May) at a special meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to speak out against Lambeth Labour’s decision to close five of the borough’s twenty-three Children’s Centres and drastically reduce services at seven others, following the call-in of the decision by Green Party councillors.
Members of the committee voted 3-4 not to send the decision back to Cabinet for reconsideration.
The Green Party call-in was presented by Councillor Pete Elliott (Gipsy Hill). He said:
“Last night’s Scrutiny meeting made clear that no mitigation has been considered for the impact these closures will have on vulnerable groups such as those with mental health issues or victims of domestic abuse, many of whom use Children’s Centres as a first point of contact for seeking support. There were also serious flaws in the consultation process which was far too short and failed those parents for who English is not a first language. This consultation was just a tick box exercise and the decision to close the centres had already been made before any engagement with the public. According to Lambeth's own constitution the decision should be co-produced with the citizens - this has not happened.
Some parents will now have to walk 45 minutes to access services at acore Children’s Centre. This is not within ‘pram-pushing distance’, particularly for those with mobility issues. This decision has been made on incomplete data and these closures should not be happening. Yet again this is Lambeth Labour doing the Tories dirty work and allowing the most vulnerable to face the worst effects of austerity.”
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:
“There appears to have been no attempt by the Council to look at alternative funding streams to keep these Centres open. Just a small reduction of the money allocated to plump up the reserves would mean all 23 Children’s Centres can remain open and fully functioning at current levels. This is what Lambeth residents want.
It is extremely disappointing that it was not voted to send this decision back to Cabinet. All research points to the fact that investing in early childhood care and education is essential. 42.8% of Lambeth’s children are living in poverty and it is these children who will suffer most from the closures. We will keep fighting this decision alongside parents and staff. We have a responsibility to the children of Lambeth and we must not let them down.”