The consultation event at Dinnington Community Primary was a bit of an eye opener, this was of course our chance to find out about the plans to close children’s centres in Dinnington, Anston, Kiveton and Thurcroft, and a chance for all to air their views.
Parents and staff from the Children’s Centre were joined by local ward councillors, town councillors and two members of the actual cabinet from the Town Hall itself, Children’s Services supremo Paul Larkin and Deputy Leader Jahangir Akhtar.
Local activist Dave Smith was also present and was unsympathetic to the Council’s case for closing all the Children’s Centres in the Rother Valley South Area. Cllr Larkin threatened to close the meeting and take his ball in if any one tried to make a political point, Cllr Akhtar accused Mr Smith of showing no respect (A bit rich given Cllr Akhtar’s criminal conviction for assault, but never mind)
The lady chairing the meeting kind of lost her credibility when she admitted to a parent that they didn’t actually know how well attended each centre was.
She also told us that the service would improve despite any closures so a parent asked then why not close all the centres if the mystery alternative is better. Again no answer!
Firebrand independent Cllr Stuart Thornton was next, pointing out that the consultation was a bit of a fix given that Cllrs had already voted for the cuts by approving the budget. This was met by howls of protest from the cabinet members and Cllr Jacquie Falvey (who had stayed obediently quiet throughout the previous exchange)
Cllr Paul Larkin settled the issue by admitting that yes the money has already been cut from his budget, but that if the “consultation” decided the centres had to stay open he would cut it from somewhere else in the Children and Young Persons budget.
Sort of robbing Peter to pay Paul! (Paul Larkin, get it? Not sure who Peter is…)
The Cllrs from Dinnington Town Council also held their tongues, thanks for your help there ladies and gentlemen! Not.
Cllr Akhtar got really surreal when he suggested that the dissenting voices in the room were upsetting the children (who were happily playing football at the back as far as I could see)
At this point I had to leave to pick my daughter up so cannot report further on the proceedings.
I never got the chance to air my views, but I fear they would not have been important to the cynical self serving officials and Labour Councillors who frankly give not one jot for the children of Dinnington and Anston.
Also council uses 2010 figures to try to justify sites to be closed. Trying to get some later ones.
When one young mother told them that the centre was her life line all she was told was that her remarks had been noted, this was the stock answer to all the parents there. The real truth to this sham of a consultation was stated at the very beginning, we told that they knew the closure would have a negative impact on the area; but they were looking for alternative uses for the building. Falvey, Havenhand and Tweed, these by the way are our seldom seen borough councillors, should hang their heads in shame. As should our impotent town councillors, just a thought but I wonder whether Akhtar was there to police the Labour councillors. He certainly did not like me outing him as the deputy leader. When you add up how many borough councillors were there plus the deputy leader their annual allowances could keep at least Dinnington centre open. By the way in last nights Sheffield Star it says the boundary commission is looking to cut the number of Sheffield councillors. How the hell is Rotherham getting away with it.
Consultation WHAT Consultation.
During the meeting (after the spin machine had finished) the lady who appointed herself “Chair” asked for any questions. Dave Smith, as is his right as a resident of the area, asked several questions and made relevant observations regarding the presentation that had been made.
Immediately he was attacked by the Deputy Leader of RMBC Cllr Akhtar. He was accused of being rude, frightening the children and of creating “Two” Meetings. (one consultation and one political) NONE OF WHICH WAS TRUE. The only reason Dave Smith was rounded upon by Cllr Akhtar was that he dared to have a different opinion to him and the Labour Party. Cllr Akhtar was down right rude in his comments to a member of the Public. Why was the Deputy Leader there anyway ?? He was clearly trying to influence the meeting by opposing anyone who did not comply with his views.
Sat next to the Deputy Leader was Cllr Larkin, who is the Head of Young peoples services, when Dave Smith refused to back down from Cllr Akhtar`s bullying, he to began to attack Dave Smith also. He even threatened to close the meeting because someone disagreed with him. That’s democratic consultation RMBC style, if they don’t agree with us, bully them and then close the meeting.
After being invited to speak I pointed out that in the room there were Three Labour Cllrs sat at the front who voted to close the Children`s Centre`s ( Cllrs Havenhand and Falvey, of Dinnington, and Cllr Dalton of Anston) One Cllr at the back, ( Cllr Burton of Anston) and then I pointed to the Deputy Leader himself. Immediately Cllr Akhtar stated that what I had said was wrong. NO I WAS NOT, I was there when all these Labour Cllrs voted to accept the Budget, which quite clearly has a £2.2m cut to the Young peoples services. The exact same figure that the presentation Team quoted from the overhead screen.
Cllr Larkin then dropped himself in it by admitting he was at the budget meeting, Every Labour Cllr present voted for the cut and the vote was recorded for all to scrutinise. The decision to cut the funding has been made and quite frankly the plan as presented will go ahead.
I then went on to question the figures that were given to us. By a previous email, I was given a figure of 99 deprived children in Anston, I have seen another paper that stated 66, and the figure given on the night was 67. They cannot even get the figures right. I was also told that the decision figure for keeping the Centres open was 500, this mysteriously had changed to 400 on the night. You cannot have a consultation in which the figures presented to the Public are all different. It was further noted that an RMBC Cllr had a figure of 253 deprived children in Dinnington on his paperwork, which was way different to the figure of 353 they put up on the screen. (353 and 67 makes 420 deprived children, so why are they closing ours down, when you add in other figures for the area, it rises to over 700)) This smacks of sloppy and incompetent background detail.
I received no answers at all, to the issue of different figures, it was totally ignored, as was every other question.
Then it was the turn of the “service users” to speak (Mums to you and me) they put some very good questions and points across, but they did not have a chance. All that came back at them was that although the centres will close, Mums will get the same standard of service when services are being provided by “outreach” workers. One lady stumped them when she said If the outreach services are going to be so good, why don’t we close all the centres down and have outreach services for all. Needless to say they did not answer that one. A gentleman asked when or how they would get answers to the questions they had asked, blank looks all round, the “Chair” looked across to the “note taker” who shrugged her shoulders and said “all the questions will be fed into the consultation” , It then became clear that there is no mechanism for answers to questions put by the public.
It soon became apparent that the meeting was drawing to a close, and It dawned on me that no one had actually asked anyone if they wanted to keep the centres open or not. I made a quick head count of about 40 people, and then asked for a show of hands who wanted to keep the Dinnington and Anston centres open. About 95% of those present vote by show of hands to keep the centres open. The message was loud and clear.
To finish off, here are some observations, of those who voted to keep the centres open, Cllrs Havenhand, Falvey Dalton and Burton all put up their hands, which is rather strange when you consider that they voted at RMBC to close them. I counted 8 RMBC Cllrs, including Akhtar and Larkin, of which only one spoke up in against the closures, Well done Cllr Jepson, Independent Cllr for Anston., I also counted a further 9 Parish Cllrs (which included the Dinnington and Anston RMBC Cllrs) of which only Clive Jepson and myself spoke up for our Community. There was a deafening silence from the Dinnington Town Cllrs. But fairs fair, at least they turned up, where were the other 6 Labour Cllrs from Anston ???.
And lastly, the message to Akhtar and Co is this, don’t come using your bullying tactics around Dinnington and Anston, we are not scared of you. We cannot be controlled like your Labour Cllrs, we bite back. The days of the Labour Party getting all their own way is coming to an end
Consultation, what consultation.
I always thought it was the job of parents to bring children up, places like this are more of the nanny state interference in peoples life’s, unless I have missed something. What concerns me far more is the lack of youth clubs in Anston and Dinnington, something that I as a youth had access to and would benefit the majority.
The idea of Sure Start is to help the kids in the early years where it has most effect, Tim.
Youth clubs help them afterwards as well, but your rather flawed argument could be used to abolish anything from Primary Schools to baby groups!
My daughter and wife used a Sure Start centre when she was little and they got a lot out of it.
The countries who succeed best with the education of the children, don’t educate their children until they are 7 years old. Prior to that it should be the responsibility of the parents to find a suitable local nursery, where they and both the children can mix prior to school. Why have children if both parents are going to dump their children in a nursery, while they go off to work. No wonder we have so many children growing up with emotional issues. Cheers Tim