Town Hall protest over Lambeth’s co-op council plans

Protesters gathered outside Lambeth Town Hall, Brixton, last night to voice their objection to the council’s co-operative council agenda.

Dozens lobbied councillors ahead of a cabinet meeting, saying that council services, like children’s clubs, should be kept under council control.

They fear that plans to hand over One O’Clock Clubs to community “trusts” will only lead to further cuts and closures, and leave children in danger.

Last month all staffed adventure playgrounds in Lambeth were closed after serious breaches of staff vetting procedures by the organisation tasked to run them emerged. The playgrounds had previously been handed to the Lambeth Play Association as part of the borough’s co-operative policy.

Elanor Wharf, with her son Sebastian, outside the town hall

Eleanor Wharf, pictured with her son Sebastian Danvers, said: “I use the One O’clock Club in Brockwell Park. It isn’t being maintained very well – the toys are dirty and it’s not the nice environment that it once was – and sometimes I get there to find it is closed and I have to make a Plan B.

“It’s so important for parents to have a place to go, have a cup of tea, socialise with other parents and share their worries, so I worry about it.”

Grace Lally, a mum of two who uses the Loughborough Park and Max Roach clubs, said staff and parents are “completely demoralised.” Speaking outside the Town Hall she said:  “Parents have stopped turning up because they can’t rely on it being open. It feels like the council is only bothered about the finances, not the effect this is having on the community.”

The staff, and some parents, say they are frustrated about Lambeth Council’s rejection of a staff bid to take over the running of the clubs. However, council leader Steve Reed said this idea was not favoured during a public consultation on the future of the centres.

Steve Reed told the Blog: “Our council was rated outstanding at safeguarding by Ofsted, both in our own services and when we work with partners. The argument that in-house services are better at safeguarding children is totally undermined by the Baby P case.”

He said that under the council’s plans, all local residents could join a trust that would decide who would run the clubs, meaning that parents could decide what the best service was. “We trust the parents and that is why we are putting them in control,” he said.

Lambeth pensioners joined the protest

An employee, who asked not to be named, said: “The service has been running for 45 years and it’s been working for the community all that time. Because of cuts and because staff aren’t being replaced with temps when they are sick or stressed, there are now just 11 staff to run 12 clubs and you need to have two members of staff per club. So there are closures. Parents are turning up to find the centres closed.”

The employee said she and colleagues would rather accept redundancy than work for the new providers, “because we don’t think they will run it properly.”

Younger members join the lobby in Brixton Hill



  1. I fail to see the logic in Cllr Reed’s remark “The argument that in-house services are better at safeguarding children is totally undermined by the Baby P case. ” Sure there have been disasters in child protection under the aegis of social services department but is he suggesting serious;y that one dreadful case “totally undermines” the work of thousands of social workers and support staff and that somehow things will be better in the less regulated environment the council proposes.

    Furthermore, it may well be that Edward Davie’s assumption that ” new ways of running them with our communities so that they are more efficient and responsive to people’s needs” turns out to be correct. What happens if he is wrong?

  2. The Lib Dem/Tory government has axed one third of Lambeth’s budget – more than any other London borough despite are relatively deprived population. In response we have done our best to cut out all waste, share services with other councils and partners like Southwark and prioritise the most vulnerable which is how we have managed to get the best rated children’s services in England. But with cuts as deep as these from the Coalition we have two choices: either salami slice and close services or find new ways of running them with our communities so that they are more efficient and responsive to people’s needs. We have rightly chosen the latter but the change is going to take some time and be difficult for some who feel it is a threat. I urge all those who care about their services, as these demonstrators clearly do, to get involved with things like the Young Lambeth Cooperative and help us face the challenges together.

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