Cuts plan set to go ahead for Sheffield

Protest outside Sheffield Town Hall against children's centre closures
Protest outside Sheffield Town Hall against children's centre closures
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CONTROVERSIAL plans to reorganise Sheffield’s Sure Start children’s centres to save £3.5 million are set to go ahead after a consultation exercise.

Up to 50 jobs are at risk in the reorganisation which will see the 36 centres redesignated as 17 hub centres with the rest becoming ‘outreach’ facilities.

But Coun Jackie Drayton, the council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We will protect services as much as we can and are trying to find savings from management, premises and administration costs.”

Julie Ward, of the council’s early years service, said that the ‘worst’ change parents are likely to find is that those attending classes which only attract ‘very small’ numbers of mums, dads and children, will be moved to the larger ‘hub’ centres.

The bulk of the savings will come from changes such as ‘not paying schools £26,000 a year to rent a room full time when it is only used once or twice a week’, Ms Ward said.

The reorganisation also means less bureaucracy, as only the 17 hub centres will have to be registered with Ofsted for inspections, instead of all 36 sites at present.

Sheffield Council insists no sites will close.

Coun Drayton added: “Nineteen of the centres will be deregistered with Ofsted but none will close.”

Jayne Ludlam, interim head of children’s services at the council, added: “The activities will continue, most will be in the same place although some might move.

“The hub centres are all very accessible on good bus routes so parents will be able to travel to them easily.”

The council also revealed that 20 nurseries will start receiving Government funding from April instead of September – meaning they will not have a gap between when current council funding runs out.

Under changes by ministers, payments are being made directly to nurseries based on enrolment.

Some of the 20 nurseries, including Tinsley, feared a gap in funding under changes initially proposed could have meant they would have to close.

A petition with more than 5,000 signatures was presented to Sheffield Council in protest at the changes.

But the council stressed that even with Government funding being available sooner, some centres will have to cut costs.

Coun Dryaton said: “There are 13 centres run by voluntary groups, three by schools, three run by private companies and one NHS provider.

“One has four managers costing a total of £120,000 a year who do not work with the children. They will have to change to survive.”

The council said that if any nurseries still have to close, it has ‘contingency plans’ for alternative facilities.

Early years reorganisation

■ Stocksbridge (hub), no outreach centres

■ Angram Bank and Parson Cross (both hubs) Chapeltown, Foxhill, Monteney (outreach centres)

■ Shirecliffe Meadows (hub) No outreach centre.

■ Shooters Grove, Stannington (hub), Hillsborough (outreach)

■ Primrose, Upperthorpe (hub), no outreach

■ Brightside (hub), Shiregreen (outreach)

■ Firth Park (hub), First Start, Stubbins (outreach)

■ Burngreave (hub), Owlerbrook (outreach)

■ Darnall (hub), Tinsley, Manor (outreach)

■ Wybourn (hub), Arbourthorne (outreach)

■ Woodthorpe (hub), Woodhouse, Handsworth (outreach)

■ Shortbrook, (hub), Birley, Beighton, Charnock, Halfway, Crystal Peaks (outreach)

■ Valley Park (hub), Bankwood, Holt House (outreach)

■ Chancet Wood (hub)

■ Sharrow (hub), Broomhall (outreach)

■ South west - hub site not yet chosen, Totley, Ecclesall, Hallam centres cover the area.