17 April 2011

FoI request to devious Hammersmith council would expose the truth about early years cuts

Users and friends of H&F Sure Start early years centres will be delivering a 2,000-strong petition on 18 April, asking the council not to rubber-stamp £3.4m worth of cuts to the "Sure Start" services that give children a better start in life. There will be a peaceful “buggy push” rally at 6.15pm outside Hammersmith Town Hall, King Street, London W6.

The council is shamefully claiming that the cuts will mean “Families get a Surer Start” (see their press release here). This is sheer nonsense: even after a brief consultation launched in response to parents' protests, we estimate that the council is still slashing 19 out of every 20 pounds it previously gave to most Sure Start centres.

Before the consultation, the council said it would reduce funding for nine of the 15 existing centres to £19,000. We understand most centres were getting £400,000 to £500,000 a year each so the new funding is less than one-twentieth of what they used to get.  £19,000 is barely enough to keep the buildings open – certainly not enough to provide any worthwhile help for families.

Following the consultation, Cllr Helen Binmore had the gall to say, “After listening to parents, we are altering our proposals to provide more funding than originally planned for the Cathnor Park, Wendell Park, New Kings and Shepherd’s Bush Families Project centres.” It turns out this actually means a total increase for these four centres of only £44,000, so on average they and the other five will still be getting less than one-twentieth of what we believe was their previous funding.

The cheeky council press release also trumpets that the remaining six centres will each have their funding increased. Yet it carefully doesn’t say by how much, probably because the truth is that the council will require these centres to do hugely more than now for only a tiny bit of extra funding.

Are we being unfair? Put in a Freedom of Information request!
See here for how. The request should ask the council to itemise centre by centre: 
(a) What budget each centre had in 2010/11 and what budget it will have in 2011/12; and 
(b) What services each centre offered families in in 2010/11 and what services it will offer in 2011/12. 

It should be stated that this information is being sought for each centre individually, ie for each of Bayonne Nursery, Bishop's Park, Broadway, Cathnor Park, Flora Gardens, Fulham Central, Fulham South, Masbro, Melcombe, New Kings, Normand Croft, Old Oak, Randolph Beresford, Shepherds Bush Families Project and Wendell Park. See here for details of the centres.

The honest scale of the reduction of support to local children and families will then become clear.

But why does any of this matter? We hand you over to Steve Cowan, leader of the Labour opposition on the council (see here for more from Steve):
"Well, if you care about living in a country where children grow up to have good jobs and are able to win wealth for the UK in an increasingly competitive world; where they are less likely to get involved in crime or anti-social behaviour and instead live healthy, productive lives, then early intervention through Sure Start matters.... The latest empirical evidence shows that early, pre-school, years intervention gives our children the best possible start in life. Even Republicans supported the introduction of the similar Head Start programme in the United States and almost every developed nation has a variation of Sure Start."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

They have no shame, and should be ashamed of the spin they put on it all.