Plans for chil­dren’s cen­tres re­viewed

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Front Page - by Paul Fran­cis pfran­cis@thek­m­

Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor PLANS for five chil­dren’s cen­tres across the county are to be scrapped and a fur­ther five are to be in­cor­po­rated into ex­ist­ing fa­cil­i­ties af­ter a cost-cut­ting re­view by ed­u­ca­tion chiefs.

County coun­cil­lors on Mon­day agreed to the plans to scale back the lat­est phase of its pro­gramme in a move that could save it £3.8 mil­lion.

The cen­tres evolved from the Gov­ern­ment’s Sure Start ini­tia­tive and the orig­i­nal aim was to have cen­tres in ev­ery com­mu­nity to of­fer wel­fare ad­vice and help for more than 83,000 chil­dren and their par­ents.

KCC said it wanted to re­view the lat­est phase of the project to see if it could cut back on the num­ber of cen­tres that would be built from scratch.

Now KCC’s rul­ing Con­ser­va­tive cab­i­net has backed a re­port rec­om­mend­ing that five be axed from the lat­est round and plans to build a fur­ther five be scratched.

The five to be scrapped are at Bid­den­den, near Ash­ford; Bearsted, Maid­stone; Kem­s­ing Pri­mary School, Sevenoaks; the Dis­cov­ery Pri­mary School, Malling and Rayne­hurst Pri­mary School, Gravesend.

New cen­tres will not now be built at Wye, Ash­ford; Cox­heath Pri­mary School, Maid­stone; East Peck­ham Pri­mary School, Ton­bridge and Pem­bury Pri­mary School, Tun­bridge Wells.

In­stead, they will be placed in ex­ist­ing build­ings al­ready of­fer­ing some kind of com­mu­nity ser­vice.

The plans for the re­main­ing 20 in the scheme re­main as they were when the re­view started.

KCC says the de­ci­sion to scale back the pro­gramme will save about £3.8 mil­lion from the over­all costs of all its cen­tres, which is es­ti­mated at £30 mil­lion.

Ros­alind Turner, KCC’s manag­ing di­rec­tor of chil­dren’s ser­vices, said the plans would not af­fect the num­ber of peo­ple who were able to ac­cess the cen­tres.

“This is con­tin­u­ing the reach of chil­dren’s cen­tres but do­ing so more with ex­ist­ing fa­cil­i­ties.”

Fund­ing has come from the gov­ern­ment and KCC, which has agreed to spend £7 mil­lion to meet a short­fall.

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