Joint submission from Labour councillors Rachael Stokes, Fleur Anderson & Rosena Allin-Khan.
This submission is in response to Wandsworth council’s consultation and its proposal to de-designate the Garratt Park and Triangle Children’s Centres. We respond in our capacity as local councillors for both Earlsfield and Bedford wards, in which the two children’s centres whose services are under threat are located.
The principle that guides our response is that all parents, no matter which ward they live in, should have access to free early-years childcare. The evidence is very clear: early-years childcare and education boosts our children’s future educational performance, reduces reliance on social care services, helps to tackling childhood obesity, and of course, promotes community cohesion.
We recognise the need for Wandsworth Council to make efficiency savings, including in the provision of early-years childcare across the Borough. We note, however, that Wandsworth has been forced to make these savings as a result of savage cuts to local budgets by this Conservative Government, including the largest real terms cut in the education budget since the 1970s.
We believe that cuts to early years childcare services – especially before all other alternative options have been explored – are a false economy. By making it more difficult for our children to get the best start in life, these cuts run the risk of increasing expenditure further down the line on social services and health.
However, we recognise the need to make immediate savings. Therefore, we support the proposals made in paper 15-437, which by streamlining the management structures of Garratt Park Centre would make significant savings, whilst retaining key services such as stay and play.
The consultation proposal goes much further than the paper voted on in council, paper 15-437. It states that de-designation may result in parents being charged for the use of stay and play services. It also fails to offer any guarantee that important outreach services on the Henry Prince Estate will be maintained.
Therefore, in relation to Garratt Park Centre, we call on the Council:
1. To commit to maintaining free stay and play services in the Garratt Park Children’s centre.
2. To commit to retaining key outreach services on the Henry Prince Estate.
This would be in line with the Council’s original proposals, and would therefore involve the required efficiency savings, but would protect the important work Garratt Park Children’s centre does in an area of high need. We do not think local parents should be punished any further by this Conservative Government.
We note that the argument for retaining services in the Triangle Children’s Centre is somewhat distinct from the Garratt Park Centre. The latter is in an area of high need; whilst the chief importance of the Triangle Centre is its role as a site for community cohesion, attended by parents of all backgrounds.
We are concerned that the changes proposed to the Triangle Children’s Centre will further degrade the service and end up being another children’s activity offer only affordable to the wealthier families in the area. Daily, all afternoon ‘stay and play’ centres are a lifeline for all carers, especially young mums who are often isolated when at home with a small baby or toddler and baby.
Therefore, in relation to the Triangle Centre, we call on the Council:
1. Not to dispose of the lease of the land, so that the cost of a nursery rent to run the service on its own land is passed on to parents.
2. To commit to maintaining free stay and play services in the Triangle Children’s Centre.
We would be happy to discuss these proposals with our Council colleagues, but impress on the Council that there can be no more valuable service than that which provides for our children’s futures.
Councillor Fleur Anderson
Councillor Rachael Stokes
Councillor Rosena Allin-Khan
- Sign the petition to save Garratt Park (Henry Prince) children’s centre
- Read Cllr Rachael Stokes’ response to proposals for the Garratt Park Children’s Centre in Earlsfield