Brace yourselves for deeper cuts

Following this year’s sizeable bites out of the money provided for young children’s services, it now emerges that the county council is preparing for a massive 40 per cent cut in the 2014/15 budget.

Managers of Surestart children’s centres in Leamington and Warwick - which are run by the charity Action for Children in partnership with the Conservative-led county council - have already been called to meetings and been told to brace themselves for a 40 per cent drop in their budgets starting next year.

Some play sessions have already been cut at the various centres as they struggle to absorb this year’s 7.9 per cent cut which is equivalent of 15 per cent allowing for cost increases - particularly the rise in employers’ costs for staff pension contributions.

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Earlier this year, members of the Labour group were warning of inevitable staff losses - although at the time council leader Alan Farnell said he had a three year plan which would offset some of the worse of the crisis.

But on Tuesday, Professor Paul Bywaters, who is the voluntary chairman of the strategic advisory group for the Leamington and Warwick children’s centres, said: “The county council has decided to take £2.3 million out of a total children’s centres’ budget of £5.75 million.

“Cuts of this scale will devastate services for families and deny a good and fair start in life to thousands of children across the county - it will also mean many immensely hard-working, committed and expert staff will lose their jobs.”

Last year the retired academic personally raised money to save the family 
counselling service and next month he will set off on 100 mile sponsored walk from Winchester to Eastbourne in a bid to prop up more of the service.

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Sarah Callaghan, head of learning and achievement for the county, admitted that 95 per cent of Warwickshire’s children’s centres were recognised as good or outstanding by Ofsted. But she added: “We cannot get away from the fact that significant savings need to be made to the way centres continue to be funded.”

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