Cost cuts a threat to chil­dren cen­tres

Labour coun­cil­lors blast move to save £415k, say­ing school per­for­mances will suf­fer

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS -

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.”

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