Roehampton councillors say Council 'squandering well-used and well run' service
A furious row has broken out about the future of a children's activity centre in Roehampton.
Alton Activity Centre is located within the Roehampton Regeneration Area. At the Council meeting on 9th December the Tories voted to cut the staffing and funding of this Centre as part of a £1.4m spending reduction for ‘Early Years’ services.
The activity centre has been run by Spurgeons, one of the UK's leading children's charities.
Kate Coghlan of Spurgeons told this web site: “It is not just a playground or a safe space, but we have got evidence that showed it made a real positive impact on improving life for the children who went there. We do understand that there are financial pressures but the positive difference that the service made does matter. We are going to be paying for this socially and economically in the longer term.”
Labour Councillor Jeremy Ambache, pictured left, who represents the Roehampton area said: "This is a short sighted decision and by the Council as these services are hugely valued by the local children and families. Highly skilled staff from Spurgeon’s offer a variety of services which meet the needs of children with considerable problems and difficulties. It takes time and costs money to build such a staff team offering effective services for children and families – and by closing down this will be lost.
"The decision has been taken hurriedly and was managed badly by the Council as it failed to involve local people including the three local Councillors. The Alton is an area of high need where these family services in great demand. The services provided by Spurgeons at this Centre are a vital lifeline for many local children and families living in the area."
Cllr Ambache continued: " As part of the Regeneration programme the Council had promised to help build up a stronger community and better services on the Alton Estate. Sadly by taking this decision close the current services the Council is doing the exact opposite of what was promised! The Council have an ambition (which has not been worked out in any detail) to continue using this facility for children. But they do not know who will do this will be achieved! Also, they do not know how this will be funded! This decision to close this facility is quite irresponsible as it is squandering a well-used and well run provision."
Councillor Kathy Tracey the Cabinet Member for Education and Children's Services states that any changes will be made at the end of the existing contract with Spurgeons. Pictured right, she told this website:
“There has been some scaremongering about this issue which is doing nothing but causing local families needless worry and concern.
“What’s happening here is the contact with Spurgeons is coming to an end. From April we will be working with local schools, charities and voluntary groups with the aim of providing a wide range of child and family friendly services at the centre.”
Adam Gray of @voteRoehampton commented: "Roehampton's Labour councillors whine 'we were duped'. Yet Labour voted side by side with the Conservatives to demolish and then sell off to private developers a huge chunk of the Alton estate. What did they imagine their complicity would mean? It means further asset-stripping of the estate, of which this just happens to be one example."
"Labour wants to turn this mistaken closure into another yah-boo party-political row with the Tory council. Yet the real story is the destructive burden of cuts the government is forcing councils to make. It's these cuts that closed the Alton Activity Centre. And they're not going to stop. The only way to protect services Roehampton actually needs and wants: like safe places for Alton kids to be active, is for us to start taking decisions for ourselves, by setting up our own town council and taking the running of such services away from Wandsworth. If we did then Alton Activity Centre would stay open - and that's a fact."
January 8, 2016