Friday, 29 November 2013
On Tuesday Night Steven Neville joined campaigners at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee of Epping Forest District Council who were considering their response to the Consultation (See here for proposal and here for consultation which finishes on 5th December) into the future provision in Essex. The plans include shutting Little Buddies - the only such centre in Buckhurst Hill. Below is the transcript of what he said: I am talking to you today about Little Buddies, which in this consultation is threatened with closure. Firstly I would like to clear up a few myths about this plan. Firstly Little Buddies is not on a main road. Queens Road is our main shopping centre, but Little Buddies is actually on Victoria Road, near the underground station, and has a number of bus routes close by. The second myth is poor parking. There is ample parking in Waitrose next door, in Queens Roads, in the public car park at the bottom of Queens Road and in nearby Forest Edge. I would also question the rumour that it is less used than other centres, but indeed Essex will know better about that. Its Reach or catchment area is largely Buckhurst Hill West, Loughton Forest and Loughton St Mary’s, each of which has hidden pockets of poverty: people living in flats on low incomes with high rents. It is also used by people who are intended to use Sunrise Alderton Hall Lane, i.e. people in Buckhurst Hill East, as they consider that venue hard to get to with no direct bus route and some walk from the station. Some residents in Buckhurst Hill East especially cannot afford train fares and bus fares, so they have to walk with a buggy. It will take over an hour if not more from somewhere like Hornbeam Road. I challenge Councilors to walk with a buggy for that length of time. Even if they get on to a bus there is a rule of no more than two buggies at a time. What if there are already two on there? Hard luck maybe. Even if you luckily drive try getting your child out at school opening and closing times at Sunrise: it can be dangerous, and if you come under the train bridge you may to cross a dangerously busy road in Oakwood Hill. It should be noted that people meant for the Limes Farm Centre also use Little Buddies. Also if I am correct about the usage of Little Buddies, how would Sunrise cope with all these extra families? I would ask what extra resources are going to be brought in and is the move financially worth it? An issue is also outreach, as when Stage 3 came in they should have changed the Reach areas so that Little Buddies served Buckhurst Hill East and West, which would have made sense. Because they did not, issues arise with catchment. Most of the usable halls are religious and some families will not use a church because they come from another faith. So this limits what you can do, as in the area there is only Lopping Hall and Loughton Library and that’s it. Everything else is a church hall and not all of them are adequate for use. Some are expensive and with marketing budgets down fewer people know about this valuable service. If things had been configured as I suggest for Reach areas there is the Wollard Centre and Roding Valley Hall in Buckhurst Hill alone which are right on the door steps of Buckhurst Hill residents. Another problem for the outreach is that, although once they had a van to take things around, workers are now expected to use cars to travel around and they have to travel around with a lot of stuff: I would ask who is going to reimburse them. Finally another myth is that Buckhurst Hill is ok. On top of areas of deprivation, its highest crime is domestic violence (which is classless), there are teens who have drug problems, people with mental health issues and that’s just scratching the surface. Children’s Centres are there for families who are afflicted by social problems and that does not just include deprivation
Monday, 18 November 2013
A few years ago, the Youth Service at Essex had a budget then of around £12m, that budget was cut a couple of years ago to just £5m ensuring a wave of redundancies across the County of experienced and professional Youth Workers. I know the good work they do and this could be lost. The latest proposal coming from County are cuts of £3m bringing the total budget for the whole county down to just £2m. The latest cut of £3m, or 60%, is disproportionate to the budget cuts required at Essex, yet again young people with no vote have been singled out. There is a consultation running online at present but the closing date is the 20 November. You can find the page here and I believe that it vital that as many people respond to these proposals as possible.