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Keighley area children’s centre hub plan attacked
Proposals to downgrade children’s centres – including those at Haworth and Silsden – will create a three-tier system that will penalise poorer parents who live in wealthier parts of Bradford district, say councillors.
After initial reports that seven centres would be closed in areas with a “lower need” – locations that all have Conservative ward councillors – Labour-run Bradford Council has come up with a consultation document, which suggests a total overhaul of funding and management.
The Children’s Centre Delivery Pro-posal 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 remain 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 proposed changes are part of measures to save the authority £2.4 million, and form part of a plan to save £3 million from youth services during the next two years.
Those centres to be possibly downgraded and become outreach bases include Daisy Chain in Silsden and Treetops at Haworth.
Coun Glen Miller, Conservative group leader whose Worth Valley ward includes Haworth, has previously condemned any changes, were they to be made for political reasons.
And Craven ward councillor Andrew Mallinson, who represents Silsden, has said he will fight any threat to children’s services.
But Coun Ralph Berry, 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”.
“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,” he said.
“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 said the proposal document offered ideas to be shared and discussed with all concerned groups.
And he stressed there is no suggestion of selling off the centres, which were paid for by central government.
“If we did sell them, the money would be clawed back by the government. We are just looking at proposals for working with volunteer groups, which can take things forward,” Coun Berry said.
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