Children’s Centres – My Opinion

As the Vice Chair of the Creating Opportunities & Tackling Inequalities Scrutiny Committee I have resisted the temptation to post on the proposals contained in the New Vision for Early Years Including Children’s Centre’s topic until now because I hadn’t seen enough evidence to make my recommendations and did not wish to be predetermined in any way.

In December I attended one of the consultation evenings and discussed the proposal with some of the mothers and fathers affected and after last nights meeting was still not happy with the content of the current proposal. I fear the loss of a community facility and the health and educational advantages children’s centres bring, not just for the children but just as importantly the mums, dads, guardians and carers and I need to be sure of how the alternatives will offer an acceptable level of service and I need to be convinced about the proposed cost savings. I am also not happy at the use of poverty as one of the major driving forces in this proposal, mothers with post natal depression for example are not restricted to those deemed to be in poverty and in my view this is unfair discrimination.

I voted against the call-in before Christmas put forward by the opposition parties in an attempt to stop the consultation because I couldn’t agree at this ill-timed attempt to try to prevent those affected from being able to put forward their personal views. The council is sometimes accused of not listening and this was in my view just a misguided attempt to gain political popularity in favour of actually representing those people affected. Indeed as Chair on the actual evening I was keen to allow those members of the public who wished to speak, time to do so and address the committee.

Last night after hearing the evidence to date I remain predisposed. I felt that I still hadn’t received all the information I needed to scruntise the proposal properly and certainly not enough to make any decisions. My colleagues on the committee held similar opinions and for this reason we worked together to ensure the wording of our recommendations was clear and concise in that we have requested that additional information is produced, along with the results of the consultation (which ends tomorrow 8/1/14), and put before cabinet for them to consider before making their decision.

Having said this, I know many of you appreciate that we can’t just bury our head in the sand on this or any other issues just because it means difficult decisions have to be made..we’re all suffering the consequences of that now from the last governments history of economic failure.

We must find savings and balance our budget, its just a shame those who keep harping on about the money spent on the water feature in Cathedral Square can’t seem to understand the difference between revenue and capital monies. Residents should be aware of the fact that the fountains were not funded from council tax monies and the continued use of this as a stick by the opposition at every opportunity to mislead the public and their inability to put forward a viable alternative budget year on year is something undecided voters should seriously consider before they cast their vote in the May elections.

Finally I should clarify that neither I nor my colleague Cllr Brian Rush have been subjected to the party whip and no vote has been requested or taken regarding the actual closure of the Children’s Centres, something last night as Chair, I was happy for all councillor members of the committee to declare in public individually.

If you’re affected and haven’t done so already, please take part in the consultation before midnight tomorrow (8/1/14) and spread the word to all your friends and family to take part too. Have your say by following this link