Liberal Democrats force Council rethink on children’s centres

As a result of action by the Liberal Democrats, Haringey Council has been forced to rethink controversial plans to re-structure and close local children’s centres.  The Labour Cabinet member for Children and Young People on Thursday announced the Council had relented in the face of pressure from head teachers, governors and councillors and decided to do more to help Children’s Centres stay open.
Liberal Democrats forced the Council to address the concerns of parents and education experts by calling a special cross-party Overview & Scrutiny committee meeting.  The revised proposals take on board a number of the Liberal Democrats’ demands, but have been criticised for still leaving several Children’s Centres at risk of closure.
The restructuring model originally proposed by the Labour Council has been put on hold and Cllr Reith has promised to look at alternative proposals to be developed by Haringey Children’s Centre Alliance. 
Cllr Reith also agreed to provide small amounts of money to keep health services in Highgate, North Bank and Rokesly centres, and help for those centres to develop business plans to stay open.  But the plans to withdraw the rest of the council funding from these centres by August will continue, along with the closure of the Tower Gardens centre.
Cllr Katherine Reece, Liberal Democrat Children’s spokesperson, comments:

“While I am pleased that we have made the Council rethink its approach to closing Children’s Centres, I am disappointed that once again, vulnerable families in the west of the borough are being ignored.  Labour don’t seem to understand that not all families in Highgate, Muswell Hill, Fortis Green, Crouch End and Hornsey are wealthy.
“I hope the Council is serious about trying to help Highgate, Rokesly and North Bank children’s centres stay open with paid-for services.  But there is still no detail on how much support will be provided, despite the fact that the Council are adamant that funding cuts should start in just two months.
“Although the Council seems to have listened to some of the Liberal Democrats concerns, the consultation with children’s centres staff about redundancy continues unabated, which makes me question how serious they are about listening to different ideas.”
Highgate Primary School Head Teacher William Dean adds:

“I am delighted that the Council has taken on board our proposal to cover accommodation costs for health services and to provide funding that will enable the centre to remain open. We look forward to continuing to provide excellent and essential services for our community from Highgate Primary School”.

Haringey Liberal Democrats urge cabinet member to change policy immediately on “disastrous” children’s centre plans

Liberal Democrats have called on cabinet member, Cllr Lorna Reith, to abandon Haringey Labour’s plan to drastically scale back provision of vital Children’s Centres. At a special ‘watchdog’ committee this week she faced overwhelming resistance to her proposals.  

On Wednesday (8th June 2011) the Overview and Scrutiny Committee rejected Labour’s proposals and sent the issue back to the cabinet member for reconsideration by next Thursday.

Heads of local schools and children’s centres united to oppose plans which would withdraw funding from children’s centres at Rokelsey, North Bank, Highgate and Tower Gardens, after the Liberal Democrats successfully referred the issue to the committee.

Cllr Rachel Allison highlighted the effects of the removal of vital preventative services, the need to have universal access to children’s centres across the borough and need to listen to the concerns raised, including those from Labour backbenchers and Labour MP David Lammy who are against the plans. 

Cllr Katherine Reece, Liberal Democrat Children’s spokesperson, comments:

“It’s time that Cllr Reith stopped rowing against the tidal wave of criticism that overwhelmingly shows that her plans will damage our local children’s welfare, upbringing and safety. The tide has turned and Cllr Reith should change her policy immediately to ensure we have a better system in place by September.”

Cllr Rachel Allison, who presented the Liberal Democrat call-in, added:

“It is clear that the schools and children’s centre managers – those who know how to run their services better than anyone – should have control over how the reduced money for their services is spent. Withdrawing services at North Bank, Highgate and Rokesley when they could be kept going with only small amounts of investment will be disastrous. I hope that we now see a change in direction.”

Cllr David Winskill, Liberal Democrat Deputy Chair of Overview and Scrutiny adds:

 “The presentations and contributions form school heads, governors, parents and others were well reasoned and involved no extra funding. It is clear that Cllr Reith, as long ago as 2008, had the opportunity to engage with these groups to find a sustainable funding regime. I hope she will listen to what Scrutiny said and go and fully engage with the Children’s Centre Alliance on a more appropriate and locally delivered model of service.”