Parties clash over youth services closure plans

11:00am Wednesday 13th November 2013

By Chris Young

The leader of children’s services at Bradford Council has dismissed claims that proposed cuts have been designed to “punish” areas that have elected Conservative councillors.

The Tory group has responded angrily to the Labour-run Council’s budget proposals which include closing seven children’s centres in areas with a “lower need”. The Tories have argued that these areas of lower need seem to coincide with those which elected non-Labour councillors at the last election, and one Craven councillor described it as “a new low” for local politics.

Centres at risk of having their funding withdrawn are Baildon, Menston and Burley, Ilkley, Haworth, Silsden, Bingley and Cottingley. The closures would save the authority £2.4 million and form part of a plan to save £3m from youth services over two years.

Coun Glen Miller, Conservative group leader whose Worth Valley ward includes Haworth, said: “The centres proposed for closure are all in wards represented by Conservative councillors and have no Labour councillors. Colleagues and I are inspecting the budget proposals in detail to ascertain whether the targeted removal of the children’s centres is part of a wider campaign to punish areas where residents don’t vote Labour by reducing or removing services generally.”

Coun Andrew Mallinson, who represents the Craven ward that includes Silsden, said: “Conservative ward councillors will support a campaign to fight the closure of children’s centres in these areas.”

But Coun Ralph Berry, head of children’s services, said it was cuts made by the Tory and Liberal Democrats coalition government that had forced the Council’s hand.

He said: “The Government cut the early intervention grant and we have still kept things going. Now we are going to have to change the way children’s services will be delivered.

“I take absolute offence to what the Conservative group is saying. I would rather we didn’t have to do this – we are trying to protect the maximum service for the maximum number of children.”

The Council will finalise its budget plans for the next two financial years at a special meeting next February.

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