This is a sad week for Rotherham. RMBC’s Cabinet has agreed to close 10 of the Borough’s 22 Sure Start children’s centres.
Anyone who cares about our town and/or social justice will be saddened to see the removal of such a vital lifeline for many of our town’s most vulnerable families and children. It is easy at times like these to resort to political points scoring but to do so does nothing positive for our town.
Many people who read and contribute to this blog will know that I am a trade union organiser; indeed some consider that to be worse than being a city speculator or a tax evading tory donor. I guess that’s just how it is and to be honest I couldn’t care less. As far as I’m concerned the fact that nobody on this forum may agree with me does not mean that I am wrong. I believe in what I believe in and I will represent my members to the best of my ability. I certainly make no apology for that. It is a privilege to represent working people and I seek no thanks for doing so.
However, I also care deeply about Rotherham and that is part of the reason why I have driven UNISON’s campaign to save our children’s centres. My allegiances are to the working class and Rotherham. I have no allegiance to Labour, although I still believe they are our best hope of achieving a fair society.
If people choose to question my motives that’s fine but I would ask any such person what they did to oppose the closure of children’s centres. I can sleep at night because I know that I genuinely couldn’t have done any more. How many of my critics can say the same?
I’m sure that various people will seek to take credit for the fact that Dinnington, Park View and Wath Victoria children’s centres will now be spared. I believe this partial victory is due in part to common-sense; it simply made no sense to cut off areas at the north and south extremities of the borough; and due in part to the views expressed through the public consultation, which saw more than 1700 responses.
We worked tirelessly to help make it easy for parents to participate in the consultation. In addition to our 6000 name petition we produced draft letters for parents to send to their councillors; we provided details of every councillor for each ward, including surgery details and we highlighted those councillors who were up for election. We have kept the issue in the public domain and we have held a number of events, which have sought to unite people and provide a community focus.
These have been covered by the local and regional press. If people choose to believe that none of this has had any impact on RMBC or any influence on shaping the final proposals then there’s not a lot I can do about that. We have spent countless unpaid hours on this campaign and I challenge anyone who wants to criticise us to tell me exactly what their contribution has been.
The closure of 10 children’s centres is extremely sad news for our town. I will continue to fight the cuts. Are you with me or against me?