This is shortened version of a press release from the campaign
Parents, carers, and the community gathered together outside Sebright Children’s Centre in on 29 January to protest the proposed closures of nurseries by Hackney [Labour] Council.
Yulisa Keselman, spokesperson for the group, and parent with a child at Sebright, said:
“We will do everything to fight the decision to close our beloved nursery and children’s centre, which is at the heart of our community.
Beaten cuts before
Natalie Aguilera, a parent with a child at Fernbank nursery, who was involved in the last campaign to stop the closure of Fernbank and Hillside, said:
“We are devastated to be here, once again, fighting to keep these vital services that offer a lifeline for many low-income families in particular, open.
“Unfortunately, just like last time, the data and evidence included in the rationale for proposed closures is incorrect, incomplete and, in places, actively misleading. The data on occupancy rates, that so much of their case for closures rests on, is deeply flawed.
“Hackney Council has still not presented a long-term plan to safeguard remaining children’s centre nursery provision, so we strongly believe more closures will follow if we allow them to go ahead with these.
We call on Mayor Woodley to stop these closures — that the community clearly rejected only two years ago — and to invest in quality, affordable childcare in Hackney.”
Matt Paul, joint branch secretary of Hackney Unison trade union, said:
“Our members make up the majority of affected staff. Dedicated to the children they work with and help flourish, the staff — many of whom are Hackney residents themselves — clearly see the impact of these cuts: the personal pain of losing their jobs, and the uncertain futures they face, but even more so the loss of such vital services to those that need it most.
“That’s why it’s vital that everything possible is done to protect key services for our community like our children centres, something we are not convinced has happened in this instance.”
Closures will result in the loss of 149 council-subsidised places for quality, affordable childcare, more than 25% of the total currently on offer at Hackney’s children’s centre nurseries. Children will not be guaranteed places in another children’s centre nursery.
Over 50 children’s centre staff and support workers (cleaners, caretakers, catering staff) across Fernbank and Sebright will lose their jobs should the centres close. There may be further redundancies at the two other sites — Hillside and Oldhill — where changes to their admission criteria is proposed.
Hackney Council tried to close Fernbank and Hillside nurseries in 2021. But the community led a successful campaign to stop the closures.
Chair of Hackney Unison and Socialist Party member Brian Debus said: “Hackney Labour council should be expanding childcare services, and sending the government the bill!”
Hackney Labour’s sneaky cuts spark mass resistance
We saved Hackney children’s centres before, we’ll save them again
by Brian Debus, Hackney Unison chair and Socialist Party
The bombshell that Hackney Labour council is closing two children’s centres, and changing two others, has upset the staff and parents, but also generated a groundswell of opposition. Jobs are under threat at all of the centres.
Instead of five working days’ notice, the council broke its own rules by smuggling the report onto its website after 7pm on a Friday evening, to be railroaded through at a council cabinet meeting three days later.
The reason? A by-election concluded on the Thursday, the day before, in the ward where two of the centres are located, and bordering another.
Labour’s problems were compounded after its candidate was suspended a week before the election for anti-trans social media posts, but then reinstated hours before the poll closed!
The manoeuvring didn’t work. Labour lost to the Tories.
The by-election was caused by the election of the previous Labour councillor – Caroline Woodley – to the position of Hackney mayor. Woodley had led proposals to close two of the children’s centres in 2022!
Two years ago, we successfully fought the closure of Fernbank and Hillside, after a massive campaign by parents, the workers’ union Unison, and the Socialist Party. Now Fernbank and Sebright are threatened with closure, while Old Hill and Hillside face changes.
The Tory government has announced a supposed expansion of free childcare (see ‘Childcare promise meaningless without funding the full costs’ socialistparty.org.uk). For Hackney Labour council to reduce its provision is one more example of the consequences of meekly implementing Tory central government cuts. It should be expanding childcare services, and sending the government the bill!
The workforce at Fernbank has already indicated that it is prepared to ballot for strike action. There will be meetings of Sebright workers on 6-7 February.
There was a parents’ protest on 29 January. And there was a Zoom meeting of parents from different centres on 30 January.
All this in less than a week from the council’s decision.
See how we won before: ‘Victory! Hackney children’s centres saved’