Save Kent’s children’s centres
Don’t mess with our children’s future!
No closures of Sure Start children’s centres – no to all cuts
There is uproar across Kent over the threat to close or cut the hours of some 27 Surestart centres. Kent county councillors and MPs of all parties including Labour, Greens, Tories, Lib Dems and Ukip are opposed to the closures in their constituencies yet they all agree that ‘efficiencies’ have to be made.
Only parents, socialists and trade unionists are adamant that there must be no cuts. Kent county council (KCC) is threatening the closure, merger and cuts in funding and hours of 27 children’s centres out of a total 97 in Kent.
The county council pays pays its 20 senior managers at least £100,000 each, with the corporate director Mr Cockburn earning £187,698 more than the prime minister. The former managing director of KCC was given a pay off last year of £420,000 after leaving in ‘controversial circumstances’.
Compare these grossly inflated wages to the ideologically driven austerity cuts of £1.5 million that the fat cats in KCC want to cut from our children’s centre budget.
Tory Kent county councillor Whittle is collecting evidence to promote the ‘not in my back yard’ closure of sure start centres through the unfair KCC consultation process by setting users of one children’s centre against another.
Kent Tory MPs Damian Collins (Shepway) and Gordon Henderson (Sittingbourne) support the unfair KCC consultation process.
Labour and Greens
Despite an opportunistic Labour Party petition of 2,000 opposing the planned closures and 5,000 contributions to the statutory consultation procedure the Labour councillors on KCC have not opposed this divisive approach.
The leader of the KCC Labour group said at a meeting in Dover called by the local prospective candidate and at the side of Sharon Hodgeson MP (Labour’s shadow children’s minister): “I am vigorously opposed to the closure of any sure start centres in Dover but there are some difficult decisions to be made and we may have to look at other areas”.
The Green Party is not offering an alternative; the recently elected and only Green Kent councillor on Kent county council, said: “We had a constructive meeting today with Jenny Whittle (Tory county councillor) at the Hythe children’s centre, great case put forward by mums and Hythe Bay school headmistress. Jenny is clearly genuinely trying to find ways to mitigate the pain, a rotten job but she’s pursuing all avenues and gave us a lot of her time today, fingers crossed”.
The Tories will not step back from ideological austerity cuts through wishful thinking by the Greens or Labour’s dented shield ideology.
Councillor Whittle said: “We’ve reached our decision by looking at the rate of usage and the majority of users are accessing centres nearby – so where we know the footfall going through children’s centres is low, the majority are using other centres and the level of need is low, we believe they’re potential candidates for closure”.
The well attended mid-morning demonstration of around 50 called by the parents through the Save Kent’s children’s centres, trade union councils, trade unions, socialists and anti-cuts campaigners was held on Thursday 19th September outside the last county council meeting before the decision on the closures of the children’s centres.
Unison members and reps came out of county hall to leaflet councillors as they went in to discuss the proposed closures and further austerity cuts on libraries, care homes and council facilities across Kent.
The demonstration forced councillor Whittle to comment on her proposals. She said: “We are also looking at hiring out community centres and village halls and seeing if there are alternative venues. That way we will cut out expenses like cleaners and maintainance”. Unison members take heed!
She was able to differentiate between Labour’s policy and the organisers of the demonstration: “I didn’t see them but I’m sure they made a sound case.
“But it was a socialist run protest and they are against all cuts – they need to get real. We can’t go on like we are …
“In Labour run Brent and Manchester they are having to close children’s centres – so it’s not just a conservative thing”.
We demand that Kent county council drops its decision to close children’s centres. We must unite against all cuts across the county.
We call on parents, TUSC supporters, trade unionists, socialists and community activists to mobilise general opposition to these attacks on children’s centres across Kent and to link up with teachers, firefighters and public sector workers taking industrial action.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 9 October 2013 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.