The Labour-led council administration in Brighton and Hove has put forward proposals for public consultation that will protect universal access to children’s centres in Brighton and Hove, despite devastating Tory government cuts of 40 per cent.
Following a review board set up by experts and service users, the administration is consulting on proposals for 11 of the 12 children’s centre buildings across the city to continue offering family health and early-years support, with at least seven centres designated as statutory Children’s Centres offering the full range of universal services to under-5s.
While some catchment areas are proposed to merge, crucially all 15,000 children and parents in the city will not miss out on universal access to services. For the poorest children in the city there will be no change to children’s centres and council-run nurseries at all. In fact, there will be enhanced provision as part of our neighbourhoods and communities agenda including universal access to additional parent and baby groups.
Cllr Tom Bewick, Labour councillor for Westbourne and lead member for Children, Young People and Skills, said:
“We’ve listened carefully to what experts and parents have told us about the importance of universal access to children’s centres. We should never forget that it was the last Labour government that made early years intervention such a high priority. It is the legacy of the Sure Start centres, lifting one million children out of poverty, and improving educational standards across the board, which is testament to that achievement.
“Despite the callous Tory government cuts that all councils are now having to cope with, we have moved early on in our administration to protect universal access to the children’s centres, while ensuring reduced monies are focussed in areas of highest need.
“When you strip out the temporary one-off monies of £670,000 put in last year by the council’s Green administration, only made available because of a failed local referendum bid to hike council tax on everyone, the actual reduction to the children’s services budget has been limited to £176,000.”
“As recent news reports have shown, even the Prime Minister seems oblivious to just how damaging his cuts are to local councils. He appears to think promising Conservative councillors access to Downing Street spin doctors will get him out of the problem, when what he needs to do is invest in the future generations that will support our city and make it thrive. At the same time, it’s short-sighted and opportunistic of the Green Party to continue to spread misinformation and falsehoods about our plans for children’s centres in what amounts to a cynical attempt to recover the support of the thousands of residents who deserted them at the last election.”