Sure Start hit as county prepares cuts of £2 million

Sure Start hit as county prepares cuts of £2 million

Sure Start hit as county prepares cuts of £2 million

First published in News St Albans & Harpenden Review: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter

Parents using Sure Start Centres in Hertfordshire could be hit with higher charges as part of a planned cost-cutting drive.

Opposition politicians have raised concerns that a proposed programme £2 million of savings could damage children’s centres and leave parents paying more.

The Conservative-dominated Hertfordshire County Council’s has drawn up plans to slice £1.8 million out of the budget, which funds more than 80 Sure Start Centres across Hertfordshire, including 14 in Watford, Three Rivers and Bushey.

Officials have said the cut will not lead to the closure of any centres but will mean service charge increases, managerial job losses and centres having to work together as "clusters" to accommodate their slimmer grants.

West Watford Labour councillor Nigel Bell said: "What we are concerned about is the possible effect on the frontline services of the nearly £2million cuts.

"While the implication is that the ‘savings’ will be mainly from the loss of the children’s centres managers when the new groups or ‘clusters’ of children’s centres are introduced next May,we are not convinced that important services will not be affected.

"The Sure Start and Children’s Centres are one of the great achievements of the last Labour Government, and we will defend them and their legacy against the Conservative County Council’s policy."

Sure Start Centres are public-funded organisations that provide a range to health and advice services to support new parents.

Last year the funding for the county’s 82 centres moved from the NHS to the county council.

Richard Roberts, the Conservative cabinet member for children's services, said: "The message is that Hertfordshire has 82 children’s centres and we are looking at commissioning 82 centres - i.e. we are closing none.

"And the way we are going to achieve this is by grouping the centres together and reducing the management and leadership but maintaining the quality and quantity of these services which families in Hertfordshire need."

Councillor Roberts also criticised Labour’s stance on the Sure Start reorganisation adding: "We are in an era of austerity as far as local government is concerned and we have to think really hard how to make savings and where to make savings.

"It really is head in the sand stuff to think we can make changes and not make efficiencies at the same time."

In a report to the children’s services cabinet panel, which met on Wednesday, officials said the changeover presented the council with "a number of opportunities".

One of these was to save around ten per cent of the grant given to the centres by making them work in "clusters".

The report said: "The general consensus has been that savings of circa ten per cent compared with the current budgets are achievable through moving from single, stand-alone centres to groups of two to five centres, alongside other efficiency improvements, increased charges, premises savings and greater use of volunteers to deliver services.

"The largest efficiency saving would be in reducing the number of centre managers and some small elements of admin."

Officials said the council did see the centres as an important part of improving the start children in the county got in life.

The report said: "Parents with young children will be supported to develop the parenting skills that will give their children a good start in life, mitigating the risks of higher cost support and interventions throughout childhood."

The savings plan was recommended by the children’s services cabinet panel and will go out for consultation before going to the ruling cabinet.

Comments (10)

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9:41am Fri 6 Jun 14

Phil Cox (UKIP) says...

Sounds good to me. No loss of service but a £2 million saving.

Why are the Labour party against cuts in costs to services? Shouldn't they be behind these cuts whilst making sure front-line services are maintained? That would be the responsible thing to do.

It seems every time there is a proposed but in costs, Labour are against it.

That just doesn't seem responsible to me. Thank goodness they are not running the council!
Sounds good to me. No loss of service but a £2 million saving. Why are the Labour party against cuts in costs to services? Shouldn't they be behind these cuts whilst making sure front-line services are maintained? That would be the responsible thing to do. It seems every time there is a proposed but in costs, Labour are against it. That just doesn't seem responsible to me. Thank goodness they are not running the council! Phil Cox (UKIP)
  • Score: -1

12:50pm Fri 6 Jun 14

garston tony says...

Sure start centres are one of the few things the last Labour government got right, if they can still be maintained but save £2 mill then good
Sure start centres are one of the few things the last Labour government got right, if they can still be maintained but save £2 mill then good garston tony
  • Score: 1

11:16pm Fri 6 Jun 14

Phil Cox (UKIP) says...

From the report it seems that to save such sums all we have to do is cut down on overstaffing.

Why are Labour concerned at cutting down on overstaffing to save money?
From the report it seems that to save such sums all we have to do is cut down on overstaffing. Why are Labour concerned at cutting down on overstaffing to save money? Phil Cox (UKIP)
  • Score: -1

11:21pm Fri 6 Jun 14

Sara says...

How do you know that there is overstaffing?
How do you know that there is overstaffing? Sara
  • Score: 0

11:37pm Fri 6 Jun 14

Phil Cox (UKIP) says...

I correct myself.

Why are Labour and the LibDems concerned at cutting down on overstaffing to save money?

Apart from being in opposition, of course, and therefore not carrying responsibility.
I correct myself. Why are Labour and the LibDems concerned at cutting down on overstaffing to save money? Apart from being in opposition, of course, and therefore not carrying responsibility. Phil Cox (UKIP)
  • Score: -2

4:43am Sat 7 Jun 14

Sara says...

I like to satisfy myself that something exists before I say that it should be cut. My local Children's Centre already shares its Lead with two other Children's Centres. Now that is to be broken up and a new grouping with three other Children's Centres in very different situations is to be introduced, purely on a flawed geographical boundaries.

At Three Rivers we are already well used to cutting back office costs. However it is very important to look carefully when services to vulnerable members of the community are concerned. There is no supporting evidence that clustering Children's Centres in the manner described will improve of retain services.

Finally a larger cut is to be made in buildings maintenance. Again there is no supporting evidence that this can be done without harm to the physical assets.
I like to satisfy myself that something exists before I say that it should be cut. My local Children's Centre already shares its Lead with two other Children's Centres. Now that is to be broken up and a new grouping with three other Children's Centres in very different situations is to be introduced, purely on a flawed geographical boundaries. At Three Rivers we are already well used to cutting back office costs. However it is very important to look carefully when services to vulnerable members of the community are concerned. There is no supporting evidence that clustering Children's Centres in the manner described will improve of retain services. Finally a larger cut is to be made in buildings maintenance. Again there is no supporting evidence that this can be done without harm to the physical assets. Sara
  • Score: 3

1:17pm Sat 7 Jun 14

Phil Cox (UKIP) says...

What, in Sara's opinion, is so flawed about the geographical boundaries as to make it unworkable?

You say there is no supporting evidence that clustering childrens centres in the manner described will improve of retain services.

Did you really expect there to be, if it had never been done before?
What, in Sara's opinion, is so flawed about the geographical boundaries as to make it unworkable? You say there is no supporting evidence that clustering childrens centres in the manner described will improve of retain services. Did you really expect there to be, if it had never been done before? Phil Cox (UKIP)
  • Score: -2

5:25pm Sat 7 Jun 14

Sara says...

Yes, I do expect there to be evidence. And evidence there is:
"At national level, there is some evidence of clustered or grouped centres performing worse than stand-alone centres – the most recent national data shows only 22.5% of centres inspected as being graded Good, with none outstanding. In Hertfordshire our current comparable figure is 67%, which suggests that there is no reason to expect that a move to clustering would have an appreciable adverse impact on assessed quality. Of the 16 single centres inspected in Hertfordshire, 13 (81%) were judged good or outstanding for overall effectiveness. The national comparator data is 61%."

One of the main reasons why clustering works better in Herts is that we don't currently have forced clustering, so the clusters have grown up where operators believe they can make them work.

Further, a survey of users and professionals found that only 12% thought clustering was the best method to deliver services.
Yes, I do expect there to be evidence. And evidence there is: "At national level, there is some evidence of clustered or grouped centres performing worse than stand-alone centres – the most recent national data shows only 22.5% of centres inspected as being graded Good, with none outstanding. In Hertfordshire our current comparable figure is 67%, which suggests that there is no reason to expect that a move to clustering would have an appreciable adverse impact on assessed quality. Of the 16 single centres inspected in Hertfordshire, 13 (81%) were judged good or outstanding for overall effectiveness. The national comparator data is 61%." One of the main reasons why clustering works better in Herts is that we don't currently have forced clustering, so the clusters have grown up where operators believe they can make them work. Further, a survey of users and professionals found that only 12% thought clustering was the best method to deliver services. Sara
  • Score: 2

8:50am Sun 8 Jun 14

Phil Cox (UKIP) says...

Then that casts a poor light on your cognitive qualities.

There cannot be evidence for what has never happened before.

Cuts need to be made. Where would you make cuts Sara?

More than one in 5 centres that are clustered are classed as good. Sara, the evidence is there, for what it's worth. It can be made to work well, why not work to make that happen? Be a part of it and not a moaning ninny.

Whilst the LibDems still have some power, why not try to make a positive contribution to the running of the council instead of opposing necessary cuts that can be brought in with little effect if any on services?

Clearly not all the data is there upon which to make a judgement, but there is enough there to show it can work. Try to be more positive and a force for good whilst you are still a councillor.
Then that casts a poor light on your cognitive qualities. There cannot be evidence for what has never happened before. Cuts need to be made. Where would you make cuts Sara? More than one in 5 centres that are clustered are classed as good. Sara, the evidence is there, for what it's worth. It can be made to work well, why not work to make that happen? Be a part of it and not a moaning ninny. Whilst the LibDems still have some power, why not try to make a positive contribution to the running of the council instead of opposing necessary cuts that can be brought in with little effect if any on services? Clearly not all the data is there upon which to make a judgement, but there is enough there to show it can work. Try to be more positive and a force for good whilst you are still a councillor. Phil Cox (UKIP)
  • Score: -1

9:09am Sun 8 Jun 14

Sara says...

It has happened elsewhere. Fewer clustered centres are classified as Good. Where centres cluster voluntarily it can work.

Who said I oppose cuts or change? I have said I am looking for evidence for what should best be done.

You do your case no good with your continued vulgar abuse if those who make a case with which you do not agree.
It has happened elsewhere. Fewer clustered centres are classified as Good. Where centres cluster voluntarily it can work. Who said I oppose cuts or change? I have said I am looking for evidence for what should best be done. You do your case no good with your continued vulgar abuse if those who make a case with which you do not agree. Sara
  • Score: 1

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