Chaos and Confusion as Childrens Centre Cuts Plan Gets Knocked Back

8th December 2017

Chaos and Confusion as Childrens Centre Cuts Plan Gets Knocked Back – but cuts are coming regardless!

For the second time in six years, a proposal to save almost a million pounds through cutting back on Children’s Centres across Sefton Borough has been given the chop by councillors – except that no one now really has a real clue as to what is going to happen. The scale of the cutbacks required clearly means some staff jobs going in the next year or so – but where and when is anyone’s guess.

Sefton Council is still committed to saving all of this money – the report received by councillors this week just doesn’t explain (perhaps they haven’t a clue?) how exactly this will be done.

Sefton Council has pioneered the ‘consultation without any real proposals to consult on’ approach which is possibly unheard of in any local government context anywhere. Instead there were all sorts of ‘warm words’ presentations around the Borough about ‘principles’ and ‘approaches’. Parents and residents, however, largely saw through this and commented appropriately. As a result, forests of trees were chopped down to print off scores of 300 page reports full of sceptical comments about the vague and woolly ‘proposals’. One respondent quoted in the report said: “It is nonsensical to refer to a model you haven’t introduced and then ask us to comment on the principles upon which the model is based.”

“This engagement effort feels very much like a tick box exercise and I am disappointed in the lack of effort to really engage with communities. All I can see the is that you are further removing centres away from areas from deprivation such as Canning Road same as you did from Crossens 5 years ago. Please don’t think that this is anything other than a cost saving exercise and your vague principles will only ever be aspirational and never achievable”

In abandoning their ideas, the Council admits it has had to ‘actively’ listen to the views of the community. They admit that “the community did not support the development of three 0-19 Family Wellbeing Centres so how the cuts will be achieved “will be explored and reviewed” together with an as-yet-unspecified “new funding methodology to be introduced in 2018”. This will likely involve “a possible impact on number and type of activities taking place”and “a possible reduction in opening hours for a number of Family and Children Centres while ” the Council and partners . . continue to explore future opportunities”. These apparently are going to “help all members of our community to live happy and healthy lives, with positive approaches in place for those that need that bit of extra support from time to time” while the £900,000 per annum cuts bite in. ” In the future, once current service delivery has been redesigned and the duplication of current Council activity removed, a more integrated model with NHS partners” may be reconsidered.

The funding for the Family, Children Centres and School Readiness will be contained within a new funding methodology, which will in many cases reduce budgets – which will in turn potentially impact on activity delivery and opening hours. Just that no one is being told how, where and why. The Council has, though agreed a schedule of childcare subsidy removal. . ” to be introduced by the end of July 2018″.

The Council says that it is “at a point where doing more of the same or trying to do more of the same with less money is going to fail children, young people, families and the communities and that “maintaining the status quo is not an option due to demographic and budgetary pressures and the lack of a transparent funding methodology” but what is actually now going to happen is anyone’s business. There will be a “removal of the childcare subsidy provided to some Children Centres on a phased basis from 2018″ and a new funding formula will be introduced to ” generate savings to the Council”which “will be captured as part of the Councils overall Medium Term Financial Plan” The ” current childcare subsidy will reduce on a phased basis by £655,000 per annum with the budget for Children’s and Family Centres reducing by around £996,550 per annum based on the formula proposed.”

According to the law, the council admits that it was required to a) undertake consultation when the proposals are still at a formative stage; (b) provide sufficient information about what it is thinking of doing, in detail and clarity, to enable the consultees to give the proposals intelligent consideration and provide intelligent response; and (c) give adequate time for the responses. Has Sefton Council done this?

The proposed cutbacks (without any details as to effect on services or outcomes) is hidden away in Annex D on page 48 of the 300 page report. The ‘Outstanding rated’ Linaker Centre is to lose £104,000, the newly-merged Farnborough/Kings Meadow/Freshfield Centre is set to lose £57,000 – both around 18 per cent of their present budgets and the Talbot Street Family Centre will lose £177,000 – over 31 per cent of its present budget.

If you want more details, they are here:…binet.pdf?T=10