20:11, 27 JULY 2015
BY LIAM MURPHY
Wirral council bosses approve plans to cut number of children’s centres
Wirral’s 16 children’s centres to be reduced to three ‘hubs’ and six ‘satellite’ centres
Wirral Council’s Cllr Tony Smith
Children’s centres in Wirral are to be cut back from 16 to just three main “hubs” to save £1.5m.
The plans will see a hub each in Birkenhead and Wallasey, plus a third for West and South Wirral based at Pensby, plus six “satellite” centres.
There was to have been a fourth hub in Eastham but this was dropped, provoking anger from local Lib Dem councillor Dave Mitchell.
Earlier this year parents had protested at the town hall over the proposed cuts calling on the authority to think again.
But cabinet member for children’s services, Cllr Tony Smith, said the council had seen a drop in funding for children’s centres from £10m in 2010 to just £3m.
However, Cllr Smith said he believes the authority’s plan to focus on those areas of greatest need would see an improvement in outcomes for the borough’s children.
Map showing proposed Wirral children’s centres
He said five years ago just 40% of children were at the expected level by the end of their reception year in school, but by focusing resources on those most in need they had seen that rise to more than 60% – and aim for that to rise to 80% in the next 12 months.
He said: “It’s ambitious, but we need to be ambitious because children have just one chance at this stage in their life.”
Cllr Smith denied money had been wasted in the past when funding was more plentiful but results were poorer.
He said: “The children who used the centres had excellent results, but the children who used the centres were from families who would use those facilities anyway. But it wasn’t wasted money, it was used to set up the centres and create access.”
He said the emphasis now would see resources focussed on the “most disadvantaged areas”.
The new plan is for hubs at Brassey Gardens Children’s Centre in Birkenhead, Seacombe Children’s Centre in Wallasey and the West and South Wirral hub would be Pensby Children’s Centre.
There will also be “satellites” at Birkenhead and Tranmere in Cathcart Street and Rock Ferry Children’s Centres, New Brighton Children’s Centre in Wallasey and at West Kirby, Bromborough and New Ferry Children’s Centres to ensure “there is a named children’s centre for each child under five”, along with the use of nursery schools at Leasowe and Ganneys Meadow.
According to a report to the cabinet 97 full time equivalent employees across the service, not including cleaning and care taking staff, will be affected by the changes.
Cllr Mitchell from Eastham said peripheral areas of Wirral were being left out, and added: “I would like to see them looking at a more joined up service with the NHS and the midwives and health visitors, using the excellent new health centre we have in Eastham. Surely we could work together.”
Council leader Phil Davies had previously pledged no children’s centre buildings would be shut. He said direct use will be made of nine of the current buildings as main hubs and satellites, while two nursery schools will continue to operate while there will be “consideration of the use of the seven remaining buildings”.