Conservatives challenge Children’s Centre cuts

Conservative councillors have backed an official challenge to planned cuts by Bath and North East Somerset Council to the authority’s Children’s Centres.

Opposition councillors have launched an official ‘call-in’ of a decision by the authority’s Liberal Democrat Cabinet to press ahead with plans to cut the Council’s Early Years budget by up to 38% and reduce the number of Children’s Centre ‘hubs’ to as low as three.

Conservatives have accused the Liberal Democrat Cabinet of failing to respond to a number of recommendations made by a cross-party committee of councillors, which had spent several months scrutinising the Council’s plans for Children’s Centres and raised a series of concerns over the proposals. One of the recommendations of the panel was to ask the Council’s Cabinet to seek ways of reducing the scale of cuts proposed to the Early Years budget.

Conservatives have said they hope that by calling-in the Cabinet’s decision it will force the Liberal Democrats to listen to the concerns of local parents and provide greater clarity over what services will remain at Children’s Centres if the cuts go ahead.

Conservative shadow spokesman for Children’s Services, Cllr Michael Evans, said:

“The Liberal Democrats have so far completely failed to show they are listening to the concerns of local families, who are clearly alarmed by the scale of cuts proposed by the Council. At £2.3 million, the cut proposed by B&NES is far deeper than the £1.5 million reduction recently announced by Bristol City Council.

“Conservatives are therefore backing this call-in of the Cabinet’s decision, which will give the Lib Dems another chance to respond to the requests of the scrutiny panel and rethink their current approach. Some restructuring of Early Years services could produce some sensible savings, but the Council still needs to spell out exactly what services will remain at Children’s Centres and who will be able to access them. We simply cannot support plans which could result in such serious damage services to families when other savings could be found.”

The Council’s call-in process means that the matter will be now be referred to the Council’s relevant Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel on Monday the 25th November, who will then decide whether or not to ‘uphold’ the call-in. If the call-in is upheld, the matter gets referred back to the Cabinet, who will then take a final decision on the matter.