East London councils protect Sure Start centres for 2011

Photo: Sarah Gilbert

East London councils have issued statements saying that no Sure Start centres face closure or reduced opening hours, at least in 2011

Three boroughs along the East London Line told ELL that their centres will remain open, and cost-cutting measures will be sought from improved management efficiency rather than shorter opening hours.

The statements come amid fears that 250 centres will close across the UK by the end of 2011, affecting more than 60,000 families, and more than 2,000 will reduce their services.

A spokesman for Hackney council said: “We have made it public that no libraries or children centres will be affected by cuts in 2011, either with closures or changes to opening hours.”

Croydon council issued a statement to ELL claiming that they believe in the long-term savings of early intervention with children “preventing the need for later, more costly interventions.

“We are not at present seeking closure of any children’s centres but we will want them to provide a service to parents as well as providing targeted support for the more vulnerable families in their local areas.”

Tower Hamlets council will not be closing any of its 85 Sure Start locations. A spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that none of these venues will be closing or facing a reduction in opening hours.

“Savings will come, in the main, from streamlining the management of centres so we can continue to provide our excellent services for local families.”

Lewisham, whose council declined to release a statement, directed ELL to their online Budget Report. “Savings” of more than £1.4m are enumerated for ‘Children & Young People’. This constitutes approximately a 2.5% reduction compared with the 09/10 budget, which totalled £52.8m for the same category.

The report does not include any explicit indication about the future of funding or management for the borough’s Sure Start centres.

The statements come as PM David Cameron fought with Labour leader Ed Miliband during this afternoon’s Prime Minister’s Questions. Mr Cameron quoted the Daycare Trust’s executive Anand Shukla as saying that ministers had “allocated sufficient funding for the existing network of Sure Start children’s centres to be maintained”.

“We have maintained the money for Sure Start, we have maintained the money for children’s centres and the head of the Daycare Trust backs our view rather than [Ed Miliband’s]” he added.

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