Parents have staged a protest over a council’s ‘history of horror’ cuts to services.
Children dressed as witches, ghosts and ghouls marched into a councillors’ surgery in Newcastle’s West End as part of a demonstrate over cuts to 20 Sure Start children’s centres.
Vanessa Cutter, from group Parents Against Cuts, said:
“Nick Forbes needs to attack Central Government and say to them, if you’ve got money to spend on redeveloping the city train station, then there should be money for Sure Start.
“The cuts that are being implemented are going to impact on so many families. The Sure Start centres are such an important resource for people. Parents Against Cuts is not prepared for them to close.”
Newcastle City Council’s Labour leader Nick Forbes needs to make a £5m reduction in funding for the service after its Central Government grant was reduced.
He is also contending once again with a significantly reduced revenue support grant from the Government which has previously led the council to cut libraries and arts funding.
Angry parents were hoping to confront Coun Forbes about the cuts but were greeted by his Westgate ward colleague Coun Geoff O’Brien.
Following the disruption at the surgery meeting at St Matthew’s Church, off Westgate Road, on Saturday Coun O’Brien blamed funding cuts from Central Government and said:
“I fully support the parents.
“The last thing we want to do is close down really good public services like Sure Start.
“I’m pleased they are protesting and there should be more people doing it across the country.”
Throughout September, the council consulted with families to try and come up with a new way of trying to maintain Sure Start Services with a reduced budget.
They have decided to pursue a model that would help 1000 vulnerable children, and spend £635,000 on targeted support services for children and families.
This means more children can be helped than was previously planned, however the future of all 20 current Sure Start centres is still under review.
Council projects like Newcastle Central Station come from a different source of funding, and it would not have been possible to transfer money to Sure Start.
Vanessa Cutter, who organised the protest, said many of the items used in the demonstration and fancy dress were used to represent services the city council has cut since 2010.
“We took along a paddling pool to represent money for the swimming pools being cut, we’ve took books to represent the cuts to libraries and bin bags to represent the bins that will be cut.
“We are looking at Nick Forbes’ history of horrors and set up a Halloween party in his surgery.”
Newcastle City Council has announced it must save £90m over the next three years on top of £151 already cut since 2010. It’s reduction in funding from Central Government has been significant with less money coming in to the revenue support grant, while cost pressures, particularly of an ageing population, continue to rise.
Vanessa said she has used the Sure Start centre in North Fenham for her children Freya, seven, Isabelle, five, and Niamh, two.
“Surely Nick Forbes’ job is to fight the Government. He talks of this £38m that has been chopped from the budget but we want to see him fight,” she said.
A city council spokesperson said:
“We know that people would prefer there to be no cuts whatsoever and we feel exactly the same way. However, the removal of government grants and the overall financial position of the city council, has left us with no alternative but to make savings in every area of our work.
“Our consultation presented people with three options but, once we collected and analysed the views of 5,000 people, a fourth option emerged. Earlier this week, our Cabinet approved the creation of new and innovative Community Family Hubs, incorporating Sure Start Children’s Centres, and with intensive support to families. The hubs would focus on those 30% of communities with the highest level of deprivation – the widest level of coverage the council can afford. At the same time the council will also continue to invest in other services targeting families with other particular needs.
“Detailed planning of how these hubs and other services will be configured, and where they will be located, will be discussed in a further phase of consultation before the council agrees its final budget position in March 2015.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 25 Oct 2014