A young service user on the 2 December 2013 Save Kent's Children's Centres protest

A young service user on the 2 December 2013 Save Kent’s Children’s Centres protest   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Dave Semple

Sixty people gathered outside County Hall in Maidstone on Monday 2 December, in protest against cuts to children’s centres across Kent. The protest was part of an ongoing campaign mounted by the Kent Trades Union Councils and “Save Kent Children’s Centres”, a parents group outraged by the devastating impact the Tory-sponsored cuts are likely to have on vulnerable families.

Under the Tories, 600 jobs are to go across Kent council services over the next three years.

In the week running up to the protest, Kent County Council (KCC) retreated from its previous plans to close 23 children’s centres. Tory councillor Jenny Whittle, cabinet member for specialist children’s services, announced that of the original 23, ‘only’ 12 would now close, six would operate with reduced hours and five would remain open on their current basis.


Parents and the trade union campaign had run a petition that garnered 6,000 signatures, had staged an earlier demonstration in September, and had been quietly acquiring the backing of dozens of union branches. The 2 December demonstration was scheduled to coincide with a meeting of the council’s cabinet which we expected would debate the proposals.

Chants of “No ifs, no buts, No public sector cuts” rang around the pedestrianised plaza. Banners from the civil servants union, PCS, were joined by union flags from posties, railway workers, local government and manual municipal workers, the unions of the Sure Start workers themselves and many more. KCC can be under no doubt that they face a lot of opposition.

Socialist Party members played the key role in pulling together opposition to the cuts. Our message was simple; not one closure, not one cut to hours, not one redundancy.

This was supported by enthusiastic applause when our speakers made these points, and plenty of debate was heard after the speeches about the position of the other political parties. It is well known that the Labour Party has made its share of the 578 Sure Start closures since 2010. And cuts implemented by the Green-led council in Brighton have made ridiculous the anti-cuts pose by Green candidates in Kent.


Councillor Whittle accepted a delegation from amongst the parents present who went into County Hall and heard that £2.2 million ‘savings’ in staffing are planned, with the key staffing review to begin in January.

Talks have already begun with the local Unison branch about the potential for strike action amongst local government workers, particularly in the children’s centres.

But the cuts also demand a political response. Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells will have local elections in 2014 and both are losing children’s centres. The race is now on to find candidates who will stand for the only political group opposing all cuts: the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, TUSC.