This evenings BMOSC, which I encouraged you all to turn up to, was very busy long and eventful, so I was not able to go into depth about children's centres in my speech.
Just to let you know, I said that I was concerned about the proposed cuts to them. The Newstead centre in my ward of East Finchley is facing the biggest cut of all, 36%. In many families, it's hard for parents, mainly mothers, to get back into work, or to return to it if they have small children because childcare costs are so expensive and there are so few places available. I said that cutting funding by this level would affect the number of places available and the amount of time that could be provided.
I understand the Council's new focus on targeting resources, but as I pointed out, the biggest cuts are happening to the centres in poorest areas, like Newstead, Underhill, Parkside etc. East Finchley, Underhill and West Hendon are very poor wards, and have high levels of depravation. Reducing the services here will certainately have an adverse impact.
I am also concerned that partents with the centres that are going to see funding increased will be played off against those who will see their funding fall. The former will be in favour of the proposals, the latter will be against.
I have always seen spending on education as being an investment, and it's sad that the council are reducing that investment by that much. As has been pointed out, youth services are not compusory, and so are the first things that get the axe. This is a real pity.
Cllr Barry Rawlings also made an interesting point about the areas served by the centres. I have seen the map for the Newstead, and I think it's frankly incoherent and bonkers. It seems to extend to near Fursby Avenue in West Finchley, which is very far away and has no close bus link. But not all of East Finchley, or even some of the poorer areas of nearby wards are covered. What makes the figures worse, as Barry mentioned, is that there is a large portion of the Garden Suburb in the Newstead's "catchment" area as I call it. This is crazy, there is nowhere near the kind of need in those areas as there is in East Finchley. They are very very different wards, and East Finchley residents are losing out on our fair share of funing because of this bizzare amalgamation.
Sadly, it wasnt referred back, but the point was made.