Cost cuts a threat to children centres
Labour councillors blast move to save £415k, saying school performances will suffer
HILLINGDON’S Labour councillors are concerned for the future of ‘lifeline’ children centres in the borough.
The Conservative-led council announced a £415,000 saving to its budget, consisting of £200,000 savings from ‘children centre expenditure’ and £215,000 from what is described as a ‘review of the children centre delivery model’.
Labour councillors asked that these savings, or ‘cuts’ to the budget, be reversed at a council meeting on Thursday February 25, but the amendment was rejected.
Cllr Jan Sweeting, West Drayton ward councillor and Labour lead on the children, young people and learning policy overview committee, thinks the cuts will exacerbate problems with poor school performances in the borough.
She said: “We all know that the council leader will say that there will be no effect on services and that the council will just do things differently to save money. My view on the cuts to children centres is that any reductions in the budgets of this service will affect what the centres are able to deliver to families, some of which rely very heavily on these centres.”
In her speech to try and reverse the cuts, she asked the council to ‘consider carefully’ whether or not this will bring a long-term saving.
She told the council chamber: “I need to ask why are you hitting the budgets of children’s centres, which are for many a lifeline in improving life chances for children, especially in the most deprived areas of the borough, which have been shown to be a vital resource in all areas of the borough.
“Some children centres are already very stretched.
“By cutting budgets, some vital outreach work just will not be possible.
“In one children’s centre I visited, the support worker there is acting in unison with a Hillingdon Social Worker in order to support 11 local families.
“A reduction of the budget of this size will mean that services in children’s centres will be watered down and the prevention focus, so important to ensuring small problems do not escalate into larger problems, will be lost.”
But Conservative lead on children’s services and deputy leader of the council, Cllr David Simmonds, ensures that ‘no centres will be closed’.
He said: “The savings will be achieved as they have been in other council services – by rationalising management and sharing resources so they go further.
“As a regular visitor to children centres, I am confident that savings are achievable without a significant negative impact on residents.”