William Eichler 13 May 2016

Protests as council closes children’s centres to save £8.5m

Union activists are today protesting in Hampshire against Tory-controlled council plans to close children’s centres.

Hampshire County Council is planning on reducing its 54 children’s centres to just 11 regional sites in a bid to save £8.5m.

The council says central Government funding has more than halved in recent years and argues it is facing a cut of £48m from next year’s grant alone.

In a bid to close the funding shortfall Hampshire has increased council tax to 3.99%, although 2% of this must be spent on adult social care.

In 2017/18, the council estimates it will need to find savings of £98m.

After a public consultation, Hampshire decided to join up children’s centres, Early Help Hubs and Youth Support Services to create 11 Family Support Service Hubs across Hampshire.

The council estimates this will lead to a saving of £8.5m thanks to a more streamlined management and operating structure, as well as the fact there will be fewer buildings.

Some of the savings, however, will be the result of job losses. 60% of their 300-strong staff will be gone by 2017.

The union Unite argue that instead of closing children’s centres and cutting staffing levels, the council should use some of its cash reserves.

Unite regional officer Ian Woodland said: ‘Countries are judged by how they care for their elderly and their children. The fact that dozens of children centres face the axe will have a big negative impact on thousands of children and their parents throughout Hampshire.

‘More than half the workforce could be culled while the council sits on a cash mountain of £500m in reserves. You have ‘reserves’ for a financial rainy day – that day has now arrived and some of those reserves should now be spent to preserve the much valued children’s centres and their highly-qualified staff.’

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