May 22 2013 Latest news:
By PAUL HARPER
Thursday, February 24, 2011
ANGRY parents and children staged a protest outside Camden Town Hall (Wed February 23) last night against “devastating” cuts to childcare.
Young protesters chanted “no to play service cuts” as cabinet members of Camden Council voted to reduce its funding for children’s centres by £3.2 million.
Councillors also approved controversial plans to stop providing after school, breakfast and holiday clubs.
Protestors, who gathered before the meeting in Judd Street, King’s Cross, came from the Plot 10 Community Play Project in Somers Town, and the Fairfield play service in Camden Town.
The Maiden Lane Community Centre in St Paul’s Crescent, Camden Town, set up a bouncy castle and activities for youngsters such as inflatable sumo wrestling.
Speaking at the meeting, Camden Unison worker Hugo Pierre said: “Children are playing in the street tonight and that scene, with young people in unsafe and unsupervised conditions, will become more common if the council approves these severe cuts.”
More than 50 people from the Winch, in Swiss Cottage, joined the demonstration and care worker Kim Mabbutt said: “The impact of these cuts is going to be devastating and we hope that councillors have listened to our message.”
Council chiefs are pushing through the cuts in an effort to close a budget shortfall of between £80million to £100million over the next three years.
The early years services, which includes 17 children’s centres in Camden, will receive 70 per cent less funding.
The Caversham Children’s Centre, in Caversham Road, Kentish Town, is due to close in August.
Arabella Murphy, from the centre’s action group, said: “I urge councillors to think again and protect our children’s future.”
Councilor Theo Blackwell, cabinet member for finance, said: “We realise a parent without childcare could be a parent without work – but the simple fact is we could not protect every area of the budget. It is like squeezing a balloon – other areas would need to be cut more severely. Services must share the pain, including the early years.”
Camden Council will also no longer run play services such as after school, breakfast and holiday clubs.
There are plans to commission some services from the voluntary sector – but these will provide for vulnerable children and those with disabilities.
Sites such as the Camden Square Play Centre, in Camden Town, and Weedington Road Play Centre, in Queen’s Crescent, which provide activity clubs are facing closure and it is feared more play facilities could be closed.
At the meeting Ashleigh Begum, a youngster from the Three Acres Community Project in Belsize Park, said: “Now only disabled children will play with disabled children. This will tear apart our community.
“We are the children of the future and you (councillors) are the children of the past. All the children are different but we have one thing in common - we love to play.”
Councillor Heather Johnson, cabinet member for children, school and families, said: “Our play service is very well liked but it is too expensive. We spend £6,000 per child if they go to after school and holiday clubs.”