East Sussex County Council says that it is facing a reduction of 20 per cent in its Early Intervention Grant for 2011/2012 compared with equivalent grants for 2010/2011 and that it has lost several other funding streams for children's services.It says that this is likely to mean a 25 per cent reduction in children's centre services over the medium term.
According to plans due to be discussed at a cabinet meeting after Nursery World went to press, the local authority plans to close around eight children's centres, to widen the geographical reach of the remaining centres and to concentrate its resources on settings in the 20 per cent most deprived areas. It says that it will remove access to grant funding from settings where standards fall rather than invest in improvement support, a move it admits could be 'controversial', particularly in rural areas.
The budget for disability short breaks is to be cut by 38 per cent from £1.8m to £1.1m, which will reduce respite facilities available to parents and carers. Other areas to be hit include preventative family support services, which is to have its budget cut from £1m to £664,000. The council admits it is unlikely that it will be able to meet previous targets of each setting having one Early Years Professional or qualified teacher by 2015.
Southport could see all phase two and phase three children's centres axed under proposals that are due to be discussed by the council today. Around 150 people have joined a Facebook campaign against plans to close the centres.
Michelle Rollin, a parent whose 20-month-old daughter attends Farnborough Road First Steps Children's Centre, which officially opened just three months ago but which is one of the Southport settings under threat, said, 'I will be devastated if the children's centre closes. My husband works away from Monday to Friday and sometimes the only contact I get with other people is at the children's centre. I take my daughter to the children's centre three or four days a week. She does not go to daycare but at the children's centre she gets all the benefits of socialising with other children.'
The London Borough of Camden is the target of a parents' campaign against council plans to close two of its 17 children's centres. Camden says that it has been forced to cut £3.2m from early years services and that each children's centre has been examined against a range of key criteria. A decision on the two children's centres will be made in May.
Norfolk County Council has published a report warning that children's centres will be forced to work together more closely in a bid to save money. The report, The redesign of Sure Start children's centres in Norfolk, does not mention closing any of the facilities, but does suggest that centres will have to work together in clusters.
Devon County Council is to cut £3m from its early years services but plans to reduce opening hours rather than shut children's centres.
Kirklees Council has made a statement that it is looking at revised models of working for its children's centres, alongside other council services. In Oxfordshire plans for three new children's centres have been scrapped.