Calderdale Council’s Labour Cabinet has agreed to commission Children’s Centres on the basis of a report from the “Early Years Commission” but local Liberal Democrats involved in this are expressing a number of serious concerns about this and are likely to ask for a more detailed examination of the proposals and the thinking behind them by the Scrutiny Panel.
In the Cabinet meeting, Cllr Janet Battye (Leader of the Liberal Democrat group) raised two concerns:
First, the lack of vision, and secondly the lack of clear information about costs and funding.
“These proposals should be based on a Vision to guide the shape of these important services. We had just heard the Cabinet agree a Vision for Adult Social Care services, Early Years service also need a vision but the Lead Member saw this coming next and referred to a future meeting of the working group. We expected this to be the other way round, vision first and then the practical application following on.
“We are very supportive of Children’s Centres. Professionally I was involved in opening three of them (not in Calderdale) and Liberal Democrat-run Councils have not closed any and we didn’t when we ran Calderdale. They are important in provide universal support services to all families with young children in the area they cover. But their daycare services are only available to a relatively few children and we wanted to see this as a more inclusive service to more children, so we support the targeted fund but there is little information about how this will work.
“But then, equally worrying, there is very little financial information about the funding available for Children’s Centres. The Lead Member referred to the need for commercial confidentiality about this. We do need to satisfy ourselves that we understand how these proposals are being funded and how sustainable this is. We have repeatedly said this in meetings of the Commission but not received enough information about this.
“There needs to be more thought given to these proposals, in our view, before they are put into place.”