CHILDREN’S centres in Silsden, Haworth and Keighley face closure under new Bradford Council plans.

Services would instead be provided in a range of community buildings as part of a massive shake-up of locations where the council provides services to children, young people and families.

The proposed changes – blamed on Government public spending cuts – would also see reduced hours at other children’s centres.

The proposals were unveiled this week by Bradford Council as part of a major review of the 41 buildings it currently uses to provide prevention and early help services across the district.

The council insisting it was not cutting services, but simply making the best use of existing resources and spending more on frontline workers rather than buildings.

But politicians across the Keighley area warned that the measures – if implemented – could badly affect outlying areas of the town.

They particularly feared young mothers in Silsden, Haworth and villages further afield would lose access to services needed for their children’s health and their own mental well-being.

The strategy would see the Rainbow Children’s Centre in Braithwaite become the town’s only Integrated Family Hub with a full range of services for children and young people.

The Children’s Centre next to Strong Close Nursery in Thwaites, would close to the public and be used only as a staff base.

Council services would still be delivered for at least eight hours a week from Highfield Children’s Centre in Drewry Road.

The council would consult on ‘appropriate alternative uses’ for Low Fold Children’s Centre on Oakworth Road at Exley Head, and former Children’s Centres at Daisy Chain in Silsden and Treetops in Haworth that still provide children’s services.

Instead of focusing its services in such centres, the council would meet identified local need by sending staff to a range of easily-accessible neighbourhood venues such as community centres, schools and toddler groups.

The proposals, which were due to be discussed by the council’s ruling Executive this week, will be subject to public consultation.

Cllr Imran Khan, portfolio holder for Education, Employment and Skills, said: “What came through from a previous consultation is that people wanted us to concentrate on people and services as opposed to buildings.

“Children’s centres are a fantastic resource but the buildings are not being used as best they could. This is about going out to where people are. We’re not talking about cutting services, what we’re trying to do is get the best use out of what we’ve got.

“The purpose of this consultation is to listen carefully to communities and our voluntary sector so we can find out how to use the locations we have in the best way possible.”

Cllr Khan said a lot of centres were put in school buildings and the schools now need those spaces back.

Cllr Khan added: “Most local authorities have already closed their children’s centres mainly down to a lack of funding. Bradford has probably kept children’s centres going longer than most.

“Government cuts mean that the council’s budgets are under huge pressure so we need to make sure we use every penny in the best way we can.”

Alarm over City Hall’s proposals was raised publicly this week by Cllr Adrian Naylor, who sits on both Bradford and Silsden councils.

He said: “For someone living in the outlying areas these proposals are problematic in the extreme. It will mean them travelling several miles to another place.

“I doubt much thought has been given to people who have to use public transport. I’m fighting to make sure provision remains in Silsden.”

Cllr Rebecca Whitaker, who also sits on both councils, insisted services had to be accessible to residents of Silsden, Steeton and Eastburn.

She said: “There’s this assumption that everyone Craven ward is very affluent, but that’s not true. There are many people with very little money. Bradford Council has a duty to provide services for everyone in the district.”

These comments were echoed by Worth Valley ward councillor Rebecca Poulsen, who said that despite the Worth Valley’s prosperity there were many pockets of deprivation.

She said: “We have people in serious need. There is social isolation, it’s difficult for people to get out. The issue is with maternal mental health.

“We have community activities like toddler groups, and they are great, but they don’t have expertise for some issues. You need the professional back-up.”

“People need support just as much as central Keighley, it’s often worse for them here because of isolation. I worry about young mums in the area.”

Councillor Poulsen said that despite a public campaign to save the Treetops children’s centre in Haworth, it had been closed “by the back door”.

She said: “It’s the only children’s centre we have and over the years there’s been less and less services there. It used to be a very active and busy, but it now seems we don’t exist.”

Cllr Cath Bacon was happy children in her Keighley West ward would have easy access to the Family Hub in Braithwaite.

But she said: “I’m desperately sad parents in other areas will have to find other ways of coping. It will cost them more money to access the services. I don’t care where people are, I want them to be able to access services when they need them.”

Cllr Bacon said the council’s new proposals were its best way to provide children’s services amidst the government’s ongoing austerity measures.

She added: “We have no alternative, we have to deliver the cuts and look at how we use our assets effectively. It’s heartbreaking that this is affecting vulnerable young people, children and parents.”

Cllr Khadim Hussain said it was good news that his Keighley Central ward would retain services at its Highfield Children’s Centre, but he hoped the new strategy would also see services in community centres such as Sangat and KAWACC.

He added: “If the council utilises centres such as that to bring the services closer to the people, then that would be a good thing.”

Keighley West councillor Adrian Farley said the proposals were not set in stone but were subject to consultation.

He added: “From previous consultations the public said they preferred to see investment in people and thus intervention rather than buildings. I’m keen to see provision where there’s need so the most vulnerable are protected.”

• A public consultation will run from February 13 to May 7. People will be able to give their views through an online questionnaire and that several community events.