Time ticks for One O'Clock toddlers club to reopen in Victoria Park, parents demand
PUBLISHED: 13:15 17 January 2020 | UPDATED: 13:15 17 January 2020
Parents have started a petition to reopen the popular One O'Clock club for toddlers in Victoria Park that Tower Hamlets Council has kept closed "temporarily for repairs" for nearly two years.
The club which has been running 46 years may be shut permanently because of local authority budget cuts, one councillor has revealed.
The doors closed in the spring of 2018 at the same time the Overland nursery in Parnell Road nearby was shut down, a double blow for families in Bow.
"Children's Services put the final nail in the One O'Clock club's coffin last summer when we were told it was no longer going to be used, despite assurances," Cll Marc Francis told the East London Advertiser.
"The council has failed to consult its own members, as well as the parents in Bow or the community."
The club was deemed "surplus to requirements" by Children's Services and was being handed to another council departmen, he has learned.
It was one of dozens of One O'clock clubs set up by the Greater London Council in the 1970s to offer safe spaces for tower block toddlers to play and a chance for new mums and dads to meet other parents, which blazed the trail for the Sure Start children's centres.
Tower Hamlets took over several clubs when the GLC folded in 1986, including one on Whitechapel's Collingwood estate and another in Wapping.
"I first took our eldest son to the Vicky Park club five years ago," Marc revealed. "There were regularly 20 children or more at each stay-and-play session."
An election promise in 2018 was to keep the club open two or three days a week. An extra £50,000 was put aside for refurbishing.
"But the Children's Services secretly began moves to close the club permanently within days of the election," Cllr Francis claims.
"It was in need of a bit of sprucing up after nearly five decades playing host to tens-of-thousands of East End toddlers. But we always suspected the closure would end up permanent because of cuts in Early Years services."
Closing the One O'Clock club had "only ever been temporary" and the stay-and-play sessions would remain, the council has assured.
But that was 22 months ago and the centre is still abandoned, with no visible work having been carried out, critics point out.
Now the council's own scrutiny committee, which keeps an eye on decisions by the mayor and his cabinet, is looking into the closure and likely to discuss it at the January 27 meeting or next month.
Campaigners want the meeting held in the neighbourhood rather than the far-away town hall so that parents can attend. The precedent has been set with a scrutiny meeting having been held previously at St Paul's Old Ford church hall off the Roman Road on housing issues.