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From The Socialist newspaper, 3 March 2011

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.

Elizabeth O'Hara

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, 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!

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In The Socialist 3 March 2011:

Anti-cuts campaign

Stop the cuts

Marching on the Con-Dem conferences in Wales

Fighting the cuts: Thousands protest, lobby and occupy

Lewisham election: There is an alternative!

Determination to beat the cuts

International socialist news

Fantastic results in Irish election: Socialists and lefts gain five seats

Elections see collapse of Fianna Fail, the traditional establishment party

Socialist Party news and analysis

Coalition steps up assault on NHS

Westminster: Save our children's services

Who 'agrees with Nick' now?

News in brief

Socialist Party workplace news

Largest protest yet against Wisconsin Governor's anti-union bill

Unison witch-hunt: Reinstate the Four!

End the blacklist

Workplace news in brief

Youth fight for jobs

Jarrow to London: March for jobs

CWU youth conference 'ready and willing to take action'

Socialist Party women

International Women's Day 2011: Women and the fightback

Socialist Party congress 2011

Socialist Party 2011 congress - a party growing in strength

International socialist news and analysis

Libya: A fight to the finish

Tunisia: Revolution and counter-revolution on the streets

Marxist analysis: history

Liverpool 1983-87: the council that fought Thatcher


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