Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/660/11282
Westminster: Save our children's services
TORY-RUN Westminster council in London is planning to cut services provided to children and parents/carers at Sure Start centres in the borough.
Save Our Children's Services Westminster (SOCSW) is a local campaign that has been set up to oppose the cuts. Local parents have produced a leaflet and a petition and spread information in playgrounds, drop-ins, schools and libraries about the proposed cuts.
The council says that because Sure Start funding has been cut at national level, then there must be cuts locally. However, many local residents don't accept the argument that cuts 'simply have to be made'. The council also says that they want to target the limited services that will remain at the most vulnerable families. However, the proposed cuts to under-fives drop in services, outreach teams and parent support will affect all those who use the services, including the most vulnerable households.
The council started a four-week consultation on 8 February on these proposed cuts to Sure Start services. However, the local councillors will vote on the budget for next year on 2 March, nine days before the consultation finishes! Local people are angry that decisions are to be made without any meaningful consultation.
The council called a borough-wide meeting for parents on 1 March, but made no effort to publicise it. SOCSW heard about it, publicised the meeting and encouraged parents to go along and protest at the cuts. The council were clearly frightened by the potential turnout and started to actively discourage parents from attending.
But over 100 angry parents turned up with their children. Council officials immediately tried to break the meeting up into small groups to avoid one big meeting.
Parents were unwilling to be fobbed off like this and one of the SOCSW organisers proposed a vote, with the vast majority of parents in favour of continuing the meeting in one group. This allowed parents to question the council officials and express their own views.
One speaker after another expressed opposition to the cuts. Parents became even more annoyed when the officials tried to portray the changes to the service as an improvement.
Eventually, they were forced to admit that there could be a 20% cut to Sure Start funding in Westminster. Many parents signed up to the SOCSW campaign and to lobby the council on 2 March.
- Westminster council also wants to make it an offence to sleep rough at the same time as slashing £5 million of funding to hostels. It claims soup kitchens provided by charities only "encourage" people to sleep on the streets.
Westminster council, one of the richest in Britain, wants to make it an offence to "give out food for free", punishable by fines. So much for David Cameron's 'big society' idea to encourage voluntary services!
In The Socialist 3 March 2011:
International socialist news
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party women
Socialist Party congress 2011
International socialist news and analysis
Marxist analysis: history