Councillors press for rethink on Children’s Centre cuts

Councillors in Bath and North East Somerset have pressed the Liberal Democrat-run authority to rethink a planned 38% cut in the budget for Children’s Centres.

At a meeting last Monday, 14th October, members of the Council’s Early Years, Children & Youth Policy Development & Scrutiny panel agreed to call upon the authority’s Liberal Democrat administration to seek alternative savings to reduce the level of cuts planned to Children’s Centre services and Early Years intervention.

During the meeting the panel heard from a number of members of the public, who expressed how important the work undertaken by Children’s Centres was to families across the area, and pleaded with the Council to think again over its currently proposed reductions.

A number of amendments to the panel’s recommendations proposed by Conservative councillors were adopted, including a warning that the Council’s current plans still left considerable uncertainty over what services will be provided at Children’s Centres in future, and who will be able to access them.

Members of the scrutiny panel ultimately agreed to recommend some changes to the way in which the Council’s Children’s Centres are operated, but asked that the Council reconsider the scale of budget cuts.

Conservative Children’s Services spokesman, Councillor Michael Evans, who sits on the Early Years, Children and Youth panel, said:

“Families throughout the area are rightly deeply concerned about the scale of cuts to Children’s Centres currently planned by the Council.

“There are clearly some sensible savings which can be made through restructuring the service, including greater use of voluntary and other organisations as well as more partnership working with health services. But the huge budget cut of nearly 40% goes far beyond any reductions currently imposed by central government and will inevitably mean Children’s Centre services are seriously curtailed.

“Currently it is still not clear who will run all the Children’s Centres, what services will still be available, and who will actually be able to access them. It is not yet clear whether all services will only be targeted at those in greatest need, or whether some universal services will remain.

“Between now and the Council’s budget in February, B&NES needs to undertake some serious work to provide answers to all these questions and find savings to mitigate the currently planned cuts.”