More than 630 people have signed the petition calling on Hounslow council to rethink plans to close four of the borough’s 18 children’s centres to achieve £1.76m of savings.
They argue that closing Norwood Green, Chiswick, Syon and Feltham Hill Children’s Centres, would negatively impact on the ‘lifestyles’ of children who use the settings and their futures.
One parent signatory said, ‘My children used these centres. I think it is disgusting that the council are thinking of shutting them down.’
Another commented, ‘The services offered at these centres is invaluable to my family.’
However, Hounslow Council, which is currently consulting on the plans, claims that the centres are either in unsuitable buildings, not in areas of high need, or where there is a shortage of free places.
The council’s consultation, entitled ‘Brighter futures for under-fives’ runs until 17 October.
Closing the settings and changing the use of some of the remaining children’s centres the council says will allow it target the most vulnerable families in areas of highest need and provide an extra 156 places for disvantaged two-year-olds.
Under its proposed model, of the remaining 14 children’s centres, four would continue to operate as normal, seven would be used in a ‘different way’ so that they provide both the children’s centre offer as well as additional childcare places, while the remaining three would be used to solely provide free places for eligible two-year-olds.
The council, which says it will be seeking views on alternate uses of the four sites earmarked for closure, also proposes making use of libraries, leisure centres, community centres and ‘faith buildings’ to deliver services to parents of under-fives in their local areas.
Hounslow Council’s cabinet member for education and children’s services, Councillor Tom Bruce, said, 'We’re holding a 90-day consultation so that we can use the views of parents and carers to shape the future of services and activities for under-fives in our borough. We are facing tough financial times, and due to Government cuts to our funding, we need to make £60 million of savings over the next four years.
'At this stage, we’re asking people for their views on our proposals, which would change the way some of our services are delivered, including providing them from elsewhere, such as from libraries and leisure centres. This would be more cost-effective and would mean that we can make the required savings while still providing important services to our youngest residents and their families.'