Fam­ily cen­tres ‘will open on time’

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Countryfile - by Paul Fran­cis pfran­cis@thek­m­group.co.uk

AM­BI­TIOUS plans to open more than 50 chil­dren’s cen­tres across the county have been hit by con­trac­tual wran­gles.

But ed­u­ca­tion chiefs in­sist they re­main on course to build the 52 cen­tres, which pro­vide a range of ser­vices for fam­i­lies with young chil­dren un­der five by the end of the year.

The as­sur­ance came af­ter it emerged that Kent County Coun­cil had been forced to ditch two out­side con­trac­tors who had been in­volved in the £17 mil­lion scheme.

They also say the de­ci­sion to re-ten­der a key build­ing con­tract could even­tu­ally save money.

Work on the sec­ond wave of chil­dren’s cen­tres be­gan in 2007, with con­trac­tors mov­ing on to some sites to be­gin build­ing work.

The cen­tres, some at­tached to schools, with oth­ers at­tached to com­mu­nity cen­tres, are be­ing funded to the tune of £10 mil­lion by the Gov­ern­ment through its Sure Start pro­gramme, with KCC con­tribut­ing £7 mil­lion to make up the over­all costs.

But county coun­cil­lors have now been told con­sul­tants em­ployed to over­see the scheme were ditched last year af­ter con­cerns about their work.

The scheme suf­fered a fur­ther set­back when KCC be­came un­happy with the per­for­mance of build­ing con­trac­tors and a de­ci­sion was taken to re-ten­der that con­tract, too.

Ed­u­ca­tion chiefs say con­cerns sur­faced about whether the builders were com­ply­ing with KCC’s brief and also high- lighted fail­ure to re­spond when prob­lems were brought to their at­ten­tion.

In a state­ment, cab­i­net mem­ber Cllr Mark Dance (Con) KCC, said: “We are com­mit­ted to de­liv­er­ing the ad­di­tional 52 cen­tres and have in­vested £7 mil­lion to make up a short­fall in gov­ern­ment fund­ing.”

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