Children’s Centres – what have the Conservatives got to hide?

Conservative County Councillors yesterday decided to shelve their report on Children’s Centres in Suffolk – without having let anyone else know what is in it.

The Conservative Leader, David Cameron, and local Conservative MPs and Councillors, pledged[1] repeatedly before and since the 2010 General election that they would not close any of the 48 Children’s Centres in our county. But on February 13 this year at the County Council Budget the Tories committed themselves to finding £1.5m[2] savings from the delivery of children’s centre services.

Already the administration is intending to close the Ormiston Children’s Centre in Felixstowe Road. SCC has said that the intention is to provide the services in other venues, but it is not now clear how all the facilities at the Ormiston centre can be replicated elsewhere. SCC have also suggested that the reason for bring all the existing children’s centre services “in-house” is so that they can be outsourced en-bloc to an external provider.

Sandy Martin, the Labour Group Leader , said “My suspicion is that they are not going to be able to find any organisation that will be able to run all the current services at all the current Children’s Centres at the price which the County Budget has imposed. That means that not only are the Centres likely to be privatised, but also that some of them will close. It’s not surprising that the Tories want to keep that quiet for as long as possible.”

Previous County Council facilities which have been “outsourced” as a prelude to being closed down include many of the Household Waste Recycling Centres – for instance, Conservative-run Waveney District Council spent a significant sum of Council Tax payers money keeping the Beccles HWRC open until after the 2011 District Council election.

Cllr Martin added “I am sure the Conservative MPs in Suffolk will not want to see Children’s Centres in their constituencies close just before a General Election – especially since they promised that they wouldn’t. I hope I am wrong, and that none of these Centres will be closed – but if they are kept open until just after the General Election and then closed, I think that is just a way of deceiving the voters.”

Notes to Editors
1 – The day before the general election, Cameron promised to protect the network of children’s centres founded by Labour, telling one voter who asked “whether these centres will continue to receive funding”: “Yes, we back Sure Start. It’s a disgrace that Gordon Brown has been trying to frighten people about this. He’s the prime minister of this country but he’s been scaring people about something that really matters.”
Around 600 Sure Start Centre’s have closed since 2010.
Quote taken from The New Statesman
http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/11/labour-targets-camerons-broken-promises-sure-start

2 – See budget papers presented to Council 13 February 2014
http://committeeminutes.suffolkcc.gov.uk/searchResult.aspx?qry=c_committee~~County Council

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