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Lib Dems Fight to protect Mole Valley's Children's Centres from Cuts

July 16, 2018 2:36 PM

Childrens centres

Cllrs Claire Malcomson & Clayton Wellman visiting the Dorking CHildrens Centre

Liberal Democrat councillors have successfully engaged Mole Valley Council to actively resist the funding cut of up to 58% that Surrey County Council is planning for our Children's Centres. At the July Council meeting, the Council agreed a Lib Dem motion calling for opposition to the cuts and mitigating action to reduce their impact.

Ofsted's last report on Surrey's Children's Services rated the County Authority as 'Inadequate'. Amongst other damning verdicts, it stated that more emphasis needs to be given to early intervention as opposed to crisis management.

However, in a counterproductive move that will only reduce the capacity for early intervention, the County is preparing to cut Children's Centres' funding by 20 - 35%. In Mole Valley it is even worse, they are proposing a 45 - 58% cut in funding.

Our Children's Centres already work on a tight budget and are extremely efficient and creative. A cut of this magnitude will effectively mean halving the service on offer and reducing the funding to around £1.60 per child per week. Is that all our children are worth?

The County Council suggest that replacing the centres with outreach services will make up for the potential site closures and loss of staff. This is wishful thinking. An arm's-length service cannot possibly make up for centres that Ofsted commended as successfully identifying those children most in need and having a big impact on their lives. Ofsted even quotes one parent's description, "a life saver… My second family."

Our Children's Centres are just that. As well as the early years' support they give, they also house food banks, interlink with Citizens' Advice & East Surrey Domestic Abuse Service and offer a host of other support. Families in difficult circumstances need to know there is a place they can go to at any time, with staff they can rely on. We have just that in the form of our Children's Centres and we must protect their vital service.

County Officers told local Councillors that Mole Valley's Children's Centres are a victim of their own success because deprivation has decreased. This seems to be a key reason the County thinks such a brutal funding cut is acceptable.

It is not acceptable. How can it be right to reverse this trend and undo the good work they are doing and the positive impact they've had on our communities?

Clayton Wellman, Liberal Democrat District Councillor for the Holmwoods, who proposed the motion, says:

"I am very pleased that Mole Valley Council unanimously supported this motion to go back to Surrey County Council and make them re-think the short-sighted cost-cutting they are proposing. Our Children's Centres do fantastic work and with such a savage cut in capability the long term effects on children and their families will be unthinkable. A solid early years' start is shown to improve children's chances and life outcomes as well as help to lift them out of deprivation because of the direction given to their lives. We must ensure Surrey County Council sees sense. Saving a few quid now means neglecting a generation of the people they should be caring for the most."