Lambeth Green councillor’s attempts to get the cabinet to re-examine plans to cut five of the borough’s children’s centres have been quashed, with the cuts going ahead.

Green councillors called-in the decision to stop funding five of the borough’s 23 children’s centres after it was approved by the cabinet in February.

Lambeth Council saw a £1.4 million cut in funding in 2017 following a change in the way the council can use the dedicated school’s grant, meaning Lambeth have less money to spend on children's centres. 

But Lambeth’s scrutiny committee voted against referring the controversial decision back to cabinet to be reconsidered by four votes to three.

Cllr Pete Elliot (Green) presented the call-in, which raised concerns the 10-week consultation period, which took place between December and February, wasn’t long enough.

It also highlighted fewer minorities took part in the consultation than would be expected per population, whether the council’s childcare sufficiency statement is up to date, and concerns the closure of Cherry Tree children’s centre, which is not run by the council, will add further pressure on other children’s centres.

Further concerns were whether the outcome of consultation around funding Woodmansterne or Sunnyhill children’s centres in Streatham would be pre-empted by the approved cuts.

But council officers found the 10 week consultation did comply with policy, and that the childcare sufficiency assessment was not wholly relevant.

They also found if there was a need for children’s centre at the Cherry Tree, the council-owned building would be tendered to a new provider.

Cllr Elliot was concerned about the closure’s impact on vulnerable groups, those with mental health issues, and victims of domestic abuse of whom the centres might be a first point of contact.

He said some parents will not have to walk 45 minutes to get to a core children’s centre.

“This is not within pram-pushing distance, particularly for those with mobility issues. This decision has been made  on incomplete data and these closures should not be happening,” he said.

Councillor Nicole Griffiths (Green) said using money from the council’s reserves could see all centres stay open.

But cabinet member for children and young people, Cllr Jennifer Braithwaite, has previously said it was unsustainable to use reserves.

She said: “We are proud to have an excellent network of 23 children’s centres in Lambeth, and proud that we have kept these vital services for Lambeth families despite almost nine years of cuts from the government.

“This is not a saving we want to make, but one we now have to make. The council’s proposals will ensure that Lambeth retains 18 children’s centres, the third most in London, and will ensure the borough continues to have a comprehensive early years’ service for our residents.

“We have consulted on proposals to change some centres; there have been meetings with parents and carers across the borough, and the council has listened to all the feedback from the consultation before finalising these proposals.

“In response to feedback via the consultation the council proposes to keep the service at Sunnyhill Children’s Centre in Streatham.”

Councillors received a petition with 2,075 signatures urging a rethink of plans to remove funding from some of the borough’s children’s centres in February.

The redesign will take place from September.

It will see:

Eleven core children’s centres offering a full programme of activities every morning and afternoon throughout the week, including the health visiting service, stay and play, crèches, parenting support and adult learning

Seven link centres that will be open every morning or afternoon offering a range of children’s centre activities, including stay and play sessions and support for parents and families

The 18 centres will be grouped into six cluster areas, and in each cluster area there will be one lead provider responsible for delivering the services across the children’s centres.

For the five remaining centres, the council is working with schools and communities to try and ensure that no building actually closes and that as many services as possible continue, such as free childcare for eligible two-year-olds and free nursery places for three-year-olds.