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Schools Forum offers a massive injection of cash to stave off immediate threat of closure
Children’s centres in Haworth and Silsden could be thrown an eleventh-hour lifeline thanks to a massive cash injection.
The district’s Schools Forum has offered £3 million to ensure facilities across Bradford district can remain open for the at least the next 12 months.
The body, which represents district headteachers and governors, wants to give the centres time to draw up a long-term solution to their funding crisis.
Campaigning by residents to save Treetops in Haworth and Daisy Chain in Silsden was this week cited as a key reason behind the decision to save the centres from closure.
John Grogan, Labour’s Parliamentary hopeful for Keighley said: “I think the energetic and well-organised representations by parents were important in bringing about this progress.”
Politicians in Silsden and Haworth welcomed this week’s announcement with widespread relief.
Councillor Adrian Naylor, whose Craven ward includes Daisy Chain, said: “This is great news.”
The forum, which holds the purse strings for Bradford’s schools, must now seek approval from education secretary Michael Gove to hand over the £3 million from its 2014/15 budget.
The rescue package could also see schools and community organisations play a much larger role in managing the centres, currently operated by Bradford Council.
The local authority plunged the centres’ future into doubt last autumn when it proposed withdrawing funding in a bid to save £2.4 million a year as part of swingeing budget cuts.
News of the rescue plan was revealed this week by Mr Grogan, who said the council’s children’s services boss, Coun Ralph Berry, had brokered the deal with the Schools Forum.
He added: “It will allow services at children’s centres to continue at current levels for another 12 months.
“This will allow time for alternative ways of managing and funding them to be explored.”
Coun Berry said the Schools Forum and recognised the important role played by children’s centres in preparing under-fives for primary school He added: “It doesn’t avoid the fact that at some point we will have to make a change.
“You’re going to see schools looking at how they can be more involved in running the children’s centres, and working with community groups and organisations.”
Coun Glen Miller, whose Worth Valley ward includes the Treetops centre, said the money must not simply be a stop-gap, but should help guarantee the long-term future of the centres.
Fellow district councillor, Adrian Naylor, called for “serious work” to cut costs at the centres, adding: “We have to make sure the situation is not repeated next year.”
Keighley MP Kris Hopkins said he was pleased the Schools Forum had recognised the value and importance of the children’s centres.
He added: “I trust the council will now channel its efforts – and resources – into finding a solution to keep the centres open for the longer term.” Haworth baptist minister, the Reverend Chris Upton, spoke in support of Treetops during last Tuesday’s full meeting of Bradford Council. He was accompanied by Rosie Russell, a mother who uses the centre.
Mr Upton later said: “Treetops provides a wonderful service to hundreds of people in the area, and it would be criminal if funding got pulled.”
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