Council's pledge to keep services as youth and children’s centre closures proposed

Financial pressure: Rotherham Council is looking to save cash by closing community based centres
Financial pressure: Rotherham Council is looking to save cash by closing community based centres

Numbers of youth centres could almost halve in Rotherham, with children’s centres reduced by a quarter, as the council struggles to maintain the services they provide without the costs of running the buildings.

The proposals will go to the council’s ruling Cabinet later this month and have been put together following consultation work about the way its ‘early help’ family services are offered.

If the proposals are accepted, it would mean the end for children’s centres in Park View, Broom Valley and Wath going, leaving nine others across the borough.

The  Herringthorpe, Treeton, Kiveton, Maltby Linx and Swinton youth centres would also face closure, though the council insists that the services they offer would still be available to users in the communities, though provided via other locations or through street based activities, which are regarded as a popular choice.

A decision on whether to proceed with the plans will be made when councillors on the ruling Cabinet meet on October 22.

The way the proposed changes have been structured means there would be no loss of frontline jobs and new venues for the services would be sought, including libraries and schools.

The council believe those locations could suit some of the families which rely on the services better than existing arrangements.

Changes are being forced upon the council as a result of reduced income, a result of years of austerity from central Government plans to reduce spending.

Reducing the portfolio of centres would also free up the cash needed to improve work on preventing youth reoffending and family breakdown.

Coun Gordon Watson, deputy leader and Cabinet member for Children and Young People’s Services said: “People told us through the consultation how much they value the services provided by our Early Help staff. Even in tough times for the council’s finances, we have listened to them and our final plans are based on what people told us they wanted.

“We want to ensure we are effective with the services we deliver as a Council. That is why we need to be out there in the community, ensuring that services are where people need them the most and not tied to delivering services from council owned buildings that we can no longer afford.

“Whilst we will continue to operate out of most of the buildings, this will be for fewer hours each week, allowing schools and others to take on the running of the buildings, and by cutting management we can continue to protect frontline staff.”

The council has already saved £1.2m since 2016 by bringing together services which previously operated independently and the proposed changes would consolidate those savings with further efficiencies.

Earlier this year the council announced plans to close adult education centres and replace them with alternative services for users.

The changes would also save £4m at a time when the authority is having to make year-on-year savings to cope with reduced Government funding.