Children’s centre services and opening hours reduced in cost-cutting measures

Banwell Community Centre and Children's Centre.

Banwell Community Centre and Children's Centre. - Credit: Archant

Children’s centres will be among the ‘priority’ services to get their funding back if the financial situation ever improves, North Somerset Council’s leader has said.

The authority agreed to cut £315,000 from its children’s centres budget over the next two years in cost-saving measures.

It had expected to close one or two centres, but intervention by Banwell Parish Council has meant its site, serving Banwell, Sandford and Winscombe, will stay open.

The executive voted on Tuesday to approve cuts to services in Yatton, Ashcombe in Weston-super-Mare, Pill, and Banwell, reducing staff numbers and also opening hours.

There will also be changes to Ashcombe Nursery and Little Waves in Weston.

Cllr Jan Barber, executive member for children’s services, said: “Part of the exercise to balance the budget involved savings in children’s centres.

“At first we thought this would involve complete closure of one or two centres to save the £300,000 involved.

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“Following consultation, and some adjustments, we are no longer cutting two children’s centres.

“We will still provide services, but for some centres there will be a reduction in hours.

“There will be opportunities to provide services via outreach.”

Cllr Tom Leimdorfer said he was worried a reduction in services could lead to fewer people using them – which could in turn provide a reason for centres to be closed down completely in the future.

He said: “There is a real danger with the staff cuts of a vicious circle with less availability, and less use until eventually one might consider a need to close them.

“I know it is a forlorn hope local authorities finances will improve, but we are trying investments to generate more income, and I hope children’s centres can be put among the highest priorities for restoration should finances improve.”

Council leader Nigel Ashton agreed children’s centres would be among the authority’s priorities should the financial situation improve.

Under the children’s centre changes, Long Ashton Children’s Centre will be remodelled, at a cost of £40,000, to enable Early Birds Nursery to provide an additional 12 places for children aged two and under.