Tagged: Vanessa Cutter

Parents out in force in Newcastle City Council cuts protest

Battling parents were on song yesterday in their fight against cuts which could see vital services for their kids cut.

A group of around 30 mums, dads and their children braved the chilly weather to take part in a street theatre event at the Centre for Life and later Central Station in Newcastle city centre.

For it, they also re-worked a few well known Christmas tunes to highlight their cause.

These included ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’ which detailed what they saw as the effect on services of proposed city council cuts.

Lines included ‘On the first day of Christmas the council took from me, a future for my family’.

Meanwhile Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ and ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ by Shakin’ Stevens also got the treatment.

It was the latest in a series of high profile events by The Parents against Cuts group which have resulted in at times heated clashes with city council leader Nick Forbes. Some wore Nick Forbes face masks for the event yesterday.

Last week the council announced proposals to cut its budget by £40m in response, it says, to Central Government austerity measures.

The PAC group was set up when plans to reduce the number of Sure Start Centres, which provide early educational and play facilities for pre-school children from the poorest backgrounds to save around £4.7m as part of these measures, were first made public.

Shannon Sherman, who helped organise the event, said:

“We’re still waiting to hear which Sure Start centres are to go.

“We were told it was to be this month, now the council is saying it’s in January.

“Christmas is a busy time for parents but we’ve got a good turn out.

“We have another planning meeting next week to decide what to do next.”

Those attending the event laughed off a suggestion made by Mr Forbes last week of a link between PAC and the Revolutionary Communist Group.

In an interview the council leader said:

“The Revolutionary Communist Party website clearly claims responsibility for a number of actions that Parents Against Cuts is taking.”

Vanessa Cutter of PAC denied the link. She said:

“I think it shows the council leader had been rattled by our protests.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 20 Dec 2014

Newcastle parents group rubbish Revolutionary Communist Party link made by Nick Forbes

A campaign group fighting against cuts which will see child provision in Newcastle slashed has slammed city council leader Nick Forbes for linking them to the Revolutionary Communist Party.

Parents against Cuts was set up when plans to reduce the number of Sure Start Centres, which provide early educational and play facilities for pre-school children from the poorest backgrounds to save around £4.7m, were first made public.

The group has since arranged a number of high profile protests while Mr Forbes has been heckled at meetings and protests have been staged outside his council surgery.

In an interview the council leader said:

“The Revolutionary Communist Party website clearly claims responsibility for a number of actions that Parents Against Cuts is taking.”

He also said he wasn’t going to engage in playground politics with people who shouted and threw things.

Vanessa Cutter of PAC said: “I was astounded that the leader of the council could come out with such ludicrous comments.”

She described the link with the Revolutionary Communist Party as “completely unfounded”.

Details of the group’s action have appeared on the party’s website.

Ms Cutter added:

“They have also appeared on the Unison website. Does that make us a front for Unison too? The Revolutionary Communists are an anti-cuts party so it is natural that they report on us, an anti-cuts group.

“I think Mr Forbes is feeling the pressure of our campaign.”

> Parents against Cuts have appeared in this blog before too ! Whatever can it mean ?

However the city council leader hit back saying:

“There is strong evidence that the Revolutionary Communist Party is claiming the credit for the disruptive activities of the Parents Against Cuts group.”

He claimed the PAC had called for the setting of an illegal budget which would bring the city into disrepute.

> Which otherwise might be seen as making a stand against central government austerity policies.

Ms Cutter has also attacked the details released in this week’s £40m budget cuts announcement which has still left those parents who will be affected by the reduction of the Sure Start service in the dark as to the extent of them.

She said:

“We were told they would tell us which centres would be closed on December 1, then December 5, then December 17 and now it could be next week.

“I think it is very strategic as we believe he wants to delay the announcement to closer to Christmas as it will be harder to build resistance.”

However Mr Forbes denied this saying it was always the intention for the final decision on Sure Start provision to be decided at the council’s Cabinet meeting in January.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 19 Dec 2014

Parent campaigners in Newcastle stage ‘Halloween’ protest over Sure Start cuts

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.”

Parents and children protest against the council's spending cuts at St Matthew's Church
Parents and children protest against the council’s spending cuts at St Matthew’s Church

 

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.

She said:

“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

Families stage ‘messy march’ against Sure Start cuts in Newcastle

Families staged a ‘messy march’ in Newcastle against cuts that could see a £5m reduction in funding for Sure Start Children’s Centres.

The figure amounts to about a 65% of the total budget for the service.

Protesters say if the proposal went through it could mean the city’s most vulnerable families would be left without childcare and vital support.

A series of themed protests – including a ‘teddy bear’s picnic’ – have been staged in recent weeks, and organiser Vanessa Cutter, 32, explained the thinking around Saturday’s event at Grey’s Monument.

The mum-of-three of Fenham, Newcastle, said:

A messy march is a child centred protest march where children do what they do best – make a mess and be noisy.

“It serves several purposes – we want to show the council that we are willing to take action, demonstrate and fight against their proposed 65% cuts to Sure Start services.

“We want to show them that if they close two thirds of centres then the city’s children will have nowhere to go.

“The council seems keen to invest lots of money in businesses and the city centre, but if that comes at the cost of children’s services then we will have to play in the areas they do invest in.”

All of Newcastle’s 20 Sure Start centres are now up for review as city councillors iron out their final budget proposals for the year 2014/2015.

Many councils across the North are struggling to make similar savings – or cuts – including Middlesbrough.

Mayor Ray Mallon announced in January £14.9m of cuts – in addition to more than £40m removed from the council’s budget over the last three years – will lead to the loss of around 300 jobs. Amongst departments are children’s services.

Sure Start was a Labour flagship policy from 1998, its aim was “giving children the best possible start in life” through improvement of childcare, early education, health and family support, with an emphasis on outreach and community development.

In Newcastle 50% of the services are delivered by the council and 50% by the Community and Voluntary Sector. The city council has estimated for the work it directly delivers, the cuts will equate to the loss of 63 full time equivalent posts.

The protestors say the proposals, if carried out, will see the budget slashed by £5m by 2016. This would mean the closure of services, buildings, parents groups and activities for children aged under five across the city.

Mum-of-two Anna Snaith, 28, of Heaton said:

“I am very upset that two out of three options for the future of services in my area include completely closing down the Ouseburn Family Centre which I regularly attend.

“The team there are fantastic and offer so much support to parents as well as children in a wide range of areas. The centre, like all Sure Start centres, promote health and well being for all families which is vital for communities. These services are the future for our children therefore I cannot understand how closing down any of them can be an option at all for our council!”

A council spokesman said previously:

“The city council is facing a considerable financial challenge, to find £100m in savings between 2013 and 2016.

“We share people’s concerns about the future of our Sure Start centres – they provide an important and well-loved service to families across the city – but the severity of the cuts leaves us with no choice but to consider further reductions.

“Nothing has been decided yet and we will be asking people to have their say with a big public consultation in September.”

Source –  Newcastle Journal, 13 Sept 2014

Newcastle parents protest against cuts to the Sure Start budget which will affect vulnerable families

Battling parents staged a ‘Teddy Bears Protest’ outside Newcastle City Council against cuts that could see a £5m reduction in funding for Sure Start Children’s Centres.

The figure amounts to about a 65% of the total budget for the service. Protesters say if the proposal went through it could mean the city’s most vulnerable families would be left without childcare and vital support.

Scores of mums and dads with their kids, along with Sure Start workers, converged on Newcastle Civic Centre for the colourful event, one of many that organisers ‘Parents Against Cuts’ have lined up in the run-in to the council’s budget implementation in October.

Spokeswoman Vanessa Cutter of Fenham, Newcastle, said: “We want to let the council know that they’re in for a fight.”

She said at a previous event earlier this month – a picnic in the Civic Centre grounds – Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes spoke to the protestors.

Vanessa said: “While he sympathised with us, he said there was nothing he can do as it was to do with Government cuts.

“But isn’t his role as leader of the council to fight for the people of Newcastle?

“We’re not putting ourselves above other services. We just think the cuts are too deep and the nearer the council can get to zero per cent cuts the better for us.”

All of Newcastle’s 20 Sure Start centres are now up for review as city councillors iron out their final budget proposals for the year 2014/2015.

A Labour flagship policy from 1998, its aim was “giving children the best possible start in life” through improvement of childcare, early education, health and family support, with an emphasis on outreach and community development.

In Newcastle 50% of the services are delivered by the council and 50% by the Community and Voluntary Sector. The city council has estimated for the work it directly delivers, the cuts will equate to the loss of 63 full time equivalent posts.

The protestors say the proposals, if carried out, will see the budget slashed by £5m by 2016. This would mean the closure of services, buildings, parents groups and activities for children aged under five across the city.

They say it will make a deteriorating situation even worse on the back of cuts which have seen the axing of council play and youth services last year.

Yvonne Holliman, 33, of the Montagu Estate, Newcastle, said of Sure Start: “It was an absolute lifeline for me. When my son, Josh, was born I suffered from Post Natal Depression and had nowhere to go at first.

“I was referred to Sure Start by my Health Visitor as are others have been. If it had not been there I don’t know what I would have done, maybe lapsed into a deeper depression.

“I got a chance to go somewhere to meet other parents and my son had kids to play with in a safe environment.

“At the end of the day, if the cuts are carried out, it will be the kids who suffer.”

Dad Rob Forster, 28, from Byker said: “I’m here to show support for the programme which supported my family.

“I don’t care about the financial side of it, it’s the social aspect I’m concerned about and the impact it will have on families.”

Dad Richard Cutter, 40, husband of Vanessa, said: “If the council closes these down now it will create a whole lot of social problems further down the line.

“The North East is one of the most deprived areas in the country and Sure Start helps provide tremendous support for the less well off. People who need help with raising kids, it teaches them about society and the community and means we are less likely to hear about problems of crime with them.

“It’s not just about the impact now, it’s about the impact it will have on Newcastle in the future.”

A council spokesman said: “The city council is facing a considerable financial challenge, to find £100m in savings between 2013 and 2016. We share people’s concerns about the future of our Sure Start centres – they provide an important and well-loved service to families across the city – but the severity of the cuts leaves us with no choice but to consider further reductions. Nothing has been decided yet and we will be asking people to have their say with a big public consultation in September.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 23 July 2014