At the Cheshire East Council meeting on Thursday, a Labour proposal to reverse proposed budget cuts to Children’s Centres funding was rejected and the Council will now press ahead with plans to ‘de-designate’ Children’s Centres in Sandbach, Nantwich, Knutsford and Broken Cross (Macclesfield).
A public consultation into the future of Children’s Centres closed on 12 February but the proposals to cut £500,000 had been published before the consultation was completed. Despite the top item in the consultation results being objection to the de-designation of one or all of the Children’s Centres and over 1,500 signatures on petitions, the Conservative Cabinet pressed ahead with their plans going against the consultation results. Indeed, the consultation results had not even been published on the consultation pages of the Council’s website on the date of the Council meeting. This was another CONsultation with the outcome a foregone conclusion.
A recently published 6 year study by Oxford University shows that Children's Centres are effective in supporting families and that they work particularly well when their funding is NOT being cut and management changed. Yet Cheshire East Council is planning to do exactly what the research says damages outcomes – cutting funding and changing management.
Cheshire East Council has recently been given £2.97m of interim government funding. Labour asked for £500,000 of this money to be used to keep Children’s Centres open. The Conservatives voted instead to put the interim funding into an earmarked reserve.
Nick Mannion, Labour Councillor for Macclesfield West & Ivy which covers the Broken Cross Children’s Centre, said, “The money is available to reverse the proposed cuts to Children’s Centres. The public consultation clearly showed that is what people want. The Oxford University study showed that Children’s Centres work. Yet the Conservatives are pressing ahead with their cuts. ”
Sam Corcoran, Labour Councillor for Sandbach Heath & East, said, “I believe that Children's Centres were originally set up to help, not the most deprived children, but those in danger of falling into that category. The 2015 indices of deprivation show that the area around the Sandbach Children's Centre falls precisely into that category as it is in the second lowest decile for health and education. Sandbach is a great place to live, that is why speculative developers have targeted Sandbach and 2,800 more houses are being built here, but there are pockets of deprivation. The Sandbach Children’s Centre is a valuable resource.
“I would also like to make a subtle but important point. Children's Centres support families. There is a danger that we talk too much about children and not enough about the families and communities in which they live. I am very concerned about the atomisation of society and the isolation of individuals. Children’s Centres bring people together so that they can support each other. The Conservative proposals would isolate people.
“I am disappointed that the 3 Conservative councillors representing Sandbach, Cllrs Gill Merry, Barry Moran and Gail Wait and Cllr John Wray for Brereton Rural all voted on party lines and supported the de-designation of the Sandbach Children’s Centre.