Parents protest plan to close children's centres in Hackney

Protests over the closures of Fernbank & Hillside children's centres

Protests over the closures of Fernbank & Hillside children's centres - Credit: Julia Gregory

Parents and children staged a protest outside Hackney Town Hall to urge council bosses to rethink the proposed closure of two children’s centres.

They took to the square along with other protest groups as a full council meeting went on inside as they bid to save Fernbank and Hillside.

The two centres have been earmarked for closure by the council as it seeks to save £1million from its budget.

Parents say the move would result in a loss of 109 affordable childcare places – with 68 at Fernbank on Fountayne Road and another 41 at Hillside on Leatherside Close. They are also concerned about potential job losses.

Another parent, Petra, who wished not to give her surname, whose child is due to start at Fernbank in the new year said: “If they are closed we are hoping we can get a place with the other children’s centres. We do not have other choices, we can’t afford them.”

Some parents said they might have to consider moving if the centres shut.

Speaking for the Conservative opposition, Cllr Simche Steinberger said: “We have to have tiny little kids standing out there, two- year-olds crying for their centre. It’s an absolute disgrace. It’s unbelievable.”

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Mayor Philip Glanville said: “If we did not have to do this we wouldn’t. We have faced a decade of cuts, £140m taken out of our budget, some of the biggest cuts in London.”

He said there have been changes in demand in the borough, with fewer children and more parents choosing private nurseries. He said there is a 23 per cent vacancy rate at council-run nurseries.

“In the face of change and austerity we have to make those difficult decisions,” he added.

Glanville pledged: "We will support those children and their families impacted and those staff who are working at the centres.”

The borough leader said affected children would be given priority at other children’s centres if there are vacancies. He said there are three other centres in walking distance. The council’s other 18 children’s centres will remain open.

“If we don’t take these decisions now we will not be able to protect that network of early years provision,” the Mayor said.

The council’s consultation on its proposals for children’s services runs until November 16.

Parents are meeting Mayor Glanville to discuss their concerns.

More than 1,000 people have signed an online petition.