LEWISHAM Council lead councillor on education has been criticised for going on safari instead of fighting for children’s rights at a key meeting last week.

Cabinet member for children and young people Councillor Helen Klier was allegedly holidaying in South Africa instead of representing Lewisham at a budget meeting last Wednesday.

Other cabinet members met with Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock to discuss £21.8m of cuts, which included swingeing cuts to Cllr Klier's own department and a proposed 1.75 per cent in council tax.

At the same meeting, social enterprise Sunrise was given the go-ahead to take over nurseries in Ladywell and Honor Oak, after the council announced plans last year to axe their funding.

Father-of-two Matt Stanley, who lives off Brownhill Road, Catford, said: "I am a bit concerned about news my elected representative is going off on safari instead of standing up and defending my child’s right to services."

The 29-year-old, who works for a charity for people with learning disabilities, added: "To me it seems bizarre. It would be like me missing the biggest meeting of the year for my business - you just wouldn’t."

Spokesman for People Before Profit in Lewisham Ray Woolford branded the absence "totally irresponsible."

He said: "What they should have done is delayed the decision until she was back.

"It is a further example of the council being detached from the time local residents are going through at the moment."

At the meeting Sir Steve postponed a decision on play club funding, also reducing planned cuts to local assembly funding and rejecting making street sweeping fortnightly or monthly.

A Lewisham Council spokesperson said: “All cabinet members, including Cllr Klier, have been heavily involved in the formulation of the budget proposals over many months and have had many opportunities to influence the Mayor ahead of the decision on the recommendations.

“Ultimately, the decisions made at the meeting of Mayor and Cabinet on 13 February were for the Mayor alone."

The Mayor's recommendations will need to be approved by a full council meeting later this month.