We saved Hackney children’s centres before, we’ll save them again
Brian Debus, Hackney Unison chair and Socialist Party
The bombshell that Hackney Labour council is closing two children’s centres, and changing two others, has upset the staff and parents, but also generated a groundswell of opposition. Jobs are under threat at all of the centres.
Instead of five working days’ notice, the council broke its own rules by smuggling the report onto its website after 7pm on a Friday evening, to be railroaded through at a council cabinet meeting three days later.
The reason? A by-election concluded on the Thursday, the day before, in the ward where two of the centres are located, and bordering another.
Labour’s problems were compounded after its candidate was suspended a week before the election for anti-trans social media posts, but then reinstated hours before the poll closed!
The manoeuvring didn’t work. Labour lost to the Tories.
The by-election was caused by the election of the previous Labour councillor – Caroline Woodley – to the position of Hackney mayor. Woodley had led proposals to close two of the children’s centres in 2022!
Two years ago, we successfully fought the closure of Fernbank and Hillside, after a massive campaign by parents, the workers’ union Unison, and the Socialist Party. Now Fernbank and Sebright are threatened with closure, while Old Hill and Hillside face changes.
The Tory government has announced a supposed expansion of free childcare (see ‘Childcare promise meaningless without funding the full costs’ socialistparty.org.uk). For Hackney Labour council to reduce its provision is one more example of the consequences of meekly implementing Tory central government cuts. It should be expanding childcare services, and sending the government the bill!
The workforce at Fernbank has already indicated that it is prepared to ballot for strike action. There will be meetings of Sebright workers on 6-7 February.
There was a parents’ protest on 29 January. And there was a Zoom meeting of parents from different centres on 30 January.
All this in less than a week from the council’s decision.