CONCERNS are growing for the future of children’s centres in Redditch after Worcestershire County Council proposed handing them over to schools with no help to fund them.
Countywide cutbacks to the centres are expected to be about 33 per cent but Redditch is braced to be hit even harder with a 53 per cent cut expected this October.
The council has proposed transferring responsibility for six of the centres to local schools, however it has not pledged any extra funding for the new burden on school finances.
Only Oak Trees at St Luke’s First School is planned to become an official childcare provider while Holly Trees in St Stephen’s First School will continue to be leased to Redditch Borough council.
Residents fear that the schools will not be able to cope with the added financial strain and the centres will inevitably close.
County Councillor Joe Baker (Lab, Arrow Valley East) said the county should be saving money by trimming the three figure salaries of the top chiefs and expenses for the chairman and hall.
“Residents are right to be concerned,” he said. “These cuts are not necessary, there are plenty of other overheads to cut.
“The county council is following its government’s lead by cutting services but the Labour party are firmly against it. The problem is when the council starts cutting they do not realise the long term impact this has.
“If these centres close it is the children that are going to miss out in the long term.”
Coun Marc Bayliss, the county’s Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: “We are facing tough financial challenges which are forcing us to consider different ways of working.
“What is important is that our proposals do not include the closure of any children’s centre buildings. These centres are important community resources.
“All will continue to deliver early childhood services. Our priority has to be to focus our resources on those children and families who need it most; and that is what these proposals will deliver.”
Coun John Smith, (Con, Worcs St Peter) Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Health and Wellbeing, said: “We are working towards a fully integrated approach across the whole of Worcestershire. We need to strengthen our approach to prevention and identify and deal with problems at the earliest possible stage.”