Published: 9th December, 2010
by RICHARD OSLEY
SENIOR councillors fear the biggest backlash over their budget cuts will come from users of Camden’s Play Service.
Parents with children at a host of council-sponsored play centres across the borough were at the Town Hall last week when the Labour cabinet agreed a budget plan which will see funding withdrawn from a number of well-known clubs.
Officials insist they are dealing with “unprecedented” cuts ordered by the government, and a black hole in council coffers amounting to £100million over three years.
The council’s plan is to re-focus services on children in need and those with disabilities. Breakfast clubs and after-school sessions for others are unlikely to be supported.
Among those facing the threat of closure is the popular Plot 10 centre in Somers Town. Children from the club were among the protesters who braved the cold last week to appeal to councillors to suspend the cuts. One youngster’s heartbreaking placard read: “Please Santa, can you save Plot 10?”
Zoe Bishop, who uses this centre and is on its management board, said last night (Wednesday): “The parents of children of Plot 10 will be devastated. It has been there 40 years. Some of the parents went there themselves as children. It is a safe and secure fun centre for children, a place where working and single parents can use knowing 100 per cent that they will be fine.”
She added: “It’s also affordable childcare. If the Play Service was to close would parents be able to afford alternative childcare? It will make it not worth some people going out to work. We all know people in the Play Service, we are thinking about all of the centres and there is a passionate campaign to keep them all open.”
Plot 10 offers breakfast clubs and after-school services for children from five years old. Supporters are now working on a petition. Play services at Fairfield in Camden Town and on the Maiden Lane Estate are among the other centres fearing the worst.
Labour councillor Heather Johnson, cabinet member for Children, Schools and Families, said: “Anywhere that we pick there is somebody who doesn’t want us to make that cut. Quite rightly so. Everybody has their own reason, but when it comes down to it we only have so much money in the bank.”