Photo: Save our Sebright
Photo: Save our Sebright

Brian Debus, Hackney Unison chair and Socialist Party

Parents and trade unions shredded the council’s proposals to privatise or close two children’s centres, and change the usage at two others, at Hackney Council’s scrutiny meeting on 19 February. This was a case of déjà vu – the council tried to close two of these centres two years ago.

If these proposals go ahead, 200 subsidised nursery places would go, and up to 50 jobs could be cut. This is what happens when a Labour council gets locked into a philosophy of implementing cuts, instead of fighting them.

Parent Natalie Aguilera, with a child at Fernbank nursery, told the scrutiny commission: “What has changed significantly since the last time, however, is the childcare environment, with a government proposal that would hugely increase demand for childcare just around the corner. This should have prompted a reassessment of the council’s approach.”

Yet, Donna Thomas – head of early years, for Hackney Council – said, with central government’s free childcare offer about to expand, it is a good time to reshape children’s services. Talk about getting the wrong end of the stick!

‘Once they’re gone, they’re gone’

Beatrice Hackett, another parent, stated: “Once these centres are gone, they are gone.” She also said after having to “plough through” documents and data: “I’m still confused”, and it was still not clear how these proposals could be justified.

Another parent presenter Yuliya Keselman criticised the briefings presented to the cabinet, including unclear graphs and population projections. “How can the cabinet make decisions on the basis of a graph they can’t even see?” she said.

This campaign has gained tremendous momentum in the last three weeks, and will be holding a very large and lively protest lobby of the full council meeting on the 28 February.

Read what’s happened so far – ‘Campaign to save Hackney children’s centres kicks off with protest’ and about ‘Childcare promise meaningless without funding the full costs’