Plans to slash play activities at a disabled school have been sent back to the drawing board after parents’ impassioned pleas.
Barnet Borough Council’s scrutiny committee voted in favour of asking the council's cabinet to reconsider plans to cut after-school clubs at Mapledown School, in Claremont Road, Cricklewood.
Money will be cut by £45,000 in the same year the authority opted to reduce its council tax income by £1.3m - making an annual saving of just £7.40 for residents on the lowest band.
Pulses rose as parents of the school’s disabled children made heartfelt statements explaining the impact the “terrible” cuts will have on their quality of life.
The decision was sent back to cabinet with a majority vote of 6:4, with councillors Jack Cohen, Barry Rawlings, Alison Moore, Brian Sallinger, Maureen Braun and Geoffrey Johnson voting for it.
They will now call an emergency meeting before the May 22 election.
Labour's parliamentary candidate for Finchley Sarah Sackman told the committee: “This is not a luxury, it’s a necessity and essential to the students and families caring for them.
“We know that for the children with severe disabilities, there are no alternatives to these cuts and short break.”
Before the cuts were made, Councillor Rueben Thompstone, in charge of the borough's schools consulted the head teacher and parents.
But last night, he came under fire from Cllr Jack Cohen after he admitted last night he had not read the response to avoid prejudicing his final decision.
Cllr Cohen told the Times Series: “The cuts are appalling, the whole thing is astonishing. The committee made the right decision. I hope the cabinet reverses this and common sense prevails.”
Committee chairman Cllr Hugh Rayner did not vote for the proposal because he felt another suitable alternative had been put forward.
He said a motion to ask the first available committee to look at the matter as a whole after June 2 was a “much more efficient” way of dealing with the matter.
Cllr Hart, who also did not vote, said: “Why should I? We need to make economies. My brother was disabled and there was nothing available for him when he was a boy.
“I suggested there are other ways to raise the money. People are too used to handouts nowadays.”
Speaking after the decision, parent Kristine Canavan said: “It’s pretty exciting. I know it’s not a done deal but it’s a start, and I really appreciate them listening to us.
“We feel like we’re getting somewhere. All of the parents are on the same page as us and I am pleased we managed to get together to fight this.
“This is far from over – we'll keep fighting it for our children.”
The Times Series has contacted Cllr Rueben Thompstone for a comment.