Axe looming over Solihull Children’s Centres

Solihull Council could close all of its 14 dedicated children’s centres by next year following a £600,000 cut in its budget.

Council bosses say there are too many children’s centres in the borough and the services can still be delivered from cheaper community venues like libraries and community halls.

The council is also looking at the option of retaining the centres only in the more deprived areas of the borough, like Chelmsley Wood, Smith’s Wood, Kingshurst, Mill Lodge.

The local authority is facing a 30 per cent cut in its budget for children’s centres (£665,000) from April 2015, meaning the council will be looking to cut spending on running the centres, alongside reducing management and administration costs by merging services.

Councillor Chris Williams (Green, Chelmsley Wood), said he is concerned about the plans.

“This business of M&S quality at Aldi prices is something I can’t see working,” he said.

“If these services are run from other venues like community halls, I can’t see them being able to offer the same service. The children centres are purpose- built buildings and these community venues are not necessarily going to have the specialist equipment. Also the venues are going to be used for other purposes.

“It’s good that the consultation has recognised the need for these centres in the more deprived areas, like the north of the borough, but we have to remember that there are still pockets of deprivation in the south, where the centres are sill very much needed.”

The centres, many of which are attached to schools and run by various charity organisations, would either be leased or sold.

“Retaining no dedicated buildings would offer the greatest financial saving,” the consultation report states.

A spokeswoman said: “The council is committed to providing early childhood services to improve outcomes for young children and their families. Services include early education and childcare, health services, training, information and advice. If there is no action, the proportion spent on buildings will disproportionately increase which would reduce the amount available for services.

“Some of these buildings have fairly low attendance levels and to maintain a high quality service the council proposes to relocate some of the centres and use community venues instead.”

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