In the House of Commons this month the Labour MP for Hammersmith Andrew Slaughter announced that as a result of the new administration on Hammersmith and Fulham Council “nine children’s centres have been saved from planned closure.”
As a result I emailed Andrew Christie, the Director of Children’s Services to ask: “If this is correct please advise which children’s centres were due to close and where this supposed plan was outlined.”
I have now had the following reply:
Dear Councillor Phibbs,
Thank you for your email to Andrew Christie, regarding an announcement by Andrew Slaughter MP in the House of Commons that nine children’s centres had been saved from planned closure.
It may help to note at Hammersmith and Fulham Cabinet in October 2014, a decision was taken to extend the current arrangements for Children’s Centre delivery, initially for a six month period up until 30 September 2015. This provision was extended for a further six months until March 2016 if required. Following this decision a press release was issued. I have enclosed a copy for ease of reference. The press release included reference to cuts in central funding having led to some concerns about potential reduction in services for Children’s Centres. As far as officers are aware this is the only information that was circulated post the Cabinet decision.
Officers are currently working with Children’s Centres to maximise the offer available for children and families at their sites, including where possible progressing the option to offer targeted two year old early places onsite and working with health colleagues to ensure a integrated health offer is part of the local offer.
I do hope that you find the above helpful.
Director of Commissioning
The press release is here.
So in other words there were no plans – from Council officers or the previous Conservative administration or anyone else – to close any children’s centres in our borough. Let alone to close nine. The Labour council has renewed the contracts and continued the same policy. That is sensible of them. But they really should put up or shut up with their allegations about a secret closure plan.
Mr Slaughter has form on this. In 2011 he said nine children’s centres were about to close.
This week the Health Minister Jane Ellison said:
“I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has a dismal track record of campaigning on this issue. We have all seen the leaflets being put out in west London. I can only say to his constituents that in the run-up to the election they would glean more from reading their tea leaves than from reading his leaflets if they want to know the truth about the NHS in west London.”
The same applies to children’s centres.