SIX of Warrington’s 12 children’s centres face an uncertain future as council cuts start to bite.
Town Hall bosses revealed this week that half of the town’s centres could either be restructured or closed.
Under new plans, bases at Callands, Sankey Valley, Lymm, Butterflies in Woolston, Woodlands in Birchwood and Cygnets in Appleton are under threat.
The council insists no decisions have yet been made, but letters have been sent out to residents this week about the proposed changes.
Clr Jean Carter, executive board member for children and young people’s services, said she hoped no closures would be needed.
She said: “We are facing significant reductions in our budget from central Government and numerous local authorities have closed many of their centres altogether, amounting to hundreds of closures nationwide.
“We hope that, with residents’ help, our proposals will mean we do not need to do this and we can also use this opportunity to look at how we can make some significant positive changes to services.”
Clr Hitesh Patel (Great Sankey – Lab) added that unless the Government provides a ‘decent level of funding, important services are going to continue to be threatened’.
He added: “In Warrington we have lost £89 of funding per head of population, whereas as in the south of England, towns like Guildford have only had £24 per head of population shaved off their budget. That’s just not fair."
A consultation, which closes on August 22, has now been launched to allow residents to have their say.
As part of the plans, the council would launch a ‘super site’ in Great Sankey and Sankey Valley and Callands children’s centres would be merged and relocated.
Lymm, Culcheth, Woolston, Cygnets and Woodlands would see its services ‘redesigned’ – although it is unclear exactly what that means.
A council spokesman said: “We are hoping to creatively redesign services in a way that we hope will mean that no physical buildings will be closing.
“We need people to get involved and tell us what services are most important. We are committed to retaining as many jobs as possible and avoiding job losses.”
But the consultation announcement has raised concerns that the named children’s centres in the proposal will be the ones hardest hit.
Clr Ian Marks (Lymm – Lib Dem) said he was ‘surprised’ to see certain centres already identified for the redesign and said it would be ‘disappointing’ to see the Lymm centre close.
He added: “I would encourage people in the area, who use the centre, to make sure they have their say.”
Peter Walker (Appleton – Lib Dem) described the centre in Appleton as a ‘valuable and valued resource’ but said it was important to wait to see the results of the consultation.
But added: “There’s no question about it. People would be sorry to see it go.”
Clr Pauline Nelson (Birchwood – Lab) added that it was ‘inevitable’ that non-statutory services would be scaled back due to the £50m cuts from the council's budget.
She said: “Instead of having a permanent Sure Start centre, the council is proposing to now run outreach sessions so local people can still get services.”