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SureStart plans are criticised by Baildon councillors
6:00am Tuesday 3rd December 2013 in News
Proposals to downgrade children’s centres will create a three-tier system which will penalise poorer parents who happen to live in wealthier parts of Bradford district, say councillors.
After reports that seven SureStart centres would be closed in areas with a “lower need” which all have Conservative ward councillors, Labour-run Bradford Council has now come up with a consultation document which suggests a total overhaul of the way all centres are run and funded.
The Children’s Centre Delivery Proposal 2014-16 states: “This proposal redefines and categorises all centres into one of the following groups: Core centres, Satellite centres and Outreach bases.”
Core centres will stay just as they are now, while satellites will have full-time opening and part-time staffing.
But nine Outreach bases will be managed from Core centres, with no paid staff and only open when booked and run by volunteers.
The changes are part of measures to save the authority £2.4 million and form part of a plan to save £3m from youth services over two years.
Baildon Councillor Debbie Davies (Con) said the town’s Sure Start centre is just as valuable to those who use it as is a centre in a more economically deprived inner city area.
Fellow ward Councillor Val Townend (Con) said the Council’s own figures proved how popular the Baildon Centre was and that it served as an example of usage in outlying areas of the district: “Last year Baildon had 969 under four-year-olds of which 446 were seen at the town’s Sure Start centre – that’s 46 per cent,” Coun Townend said.
Coun Glen Miller, Conservative group leader whose ward includes Haworth, has condemned any changes were they to be made for political reasons.
But Coun Ralph Berry (Lab, Wibsey) , head of children’s services said it was a time when tough decisions had to be made and described any suggestions of political machinations as “just tosh”.
He said: “Ideally we wouldn’t have wanted to have any changes, but the Government has cut the early intervention grant and we have to make £2.4 million cuts.
“So we need to find some way of trying to fund things and this will mean some streamlining of services which will mean less organisational overheads. We are aiming to create a hub and spoke model with the Core centres being the hubs for the others.”
Coun Berry (Lab, Wibsey) said the proposal document offered ideas to be shared and discussed with all concerned groups.
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