Anxious parents won’t be taking any chances

Outstanding Ofsted report at Wellholme Day Nursery, Bradford Road, Brighouse'Pictured
Outstanding Ofsted report at Wellholme Day Nursery, Bradford Road, Brighouse'Pictured

OUTRAGED parents and staff at children’s centres throughout the district have vowed to safeguard their future

Around 60 people attended a budget consultation meeting at Brighouse High School Sixth Form Centre to put their views across about the draft budget put forward by the Lib-Lab coalition.

The council has already made savings of £15 million for the current year rising to £28 million in 2013/14.

One of the proposals published last week identified potential savings at five children’s centres including Wellholme Park, Brighouse, and Field Lane, Rastrick. If approved, would have meant axing 63 jobs across the district and saving more than £1 million in staffing costs.

But the council has now removed the list of five from its website saying “it was a mistake” and the revised proposal is “to cease to maintain” day care in children’s centres which are undersubscribed and struggling to sustain provision.

Calderdale Council’s children and young people’s services director Stuart Smith said analysis was underway to find out exactly where these are located and whether the council is providing subsidised day care for children who are outside the most disadvantaged communities.

“Only when we have this detailed information will we be able to identify those centres which meet the criteria and we can commence public consultation.”

One parent said that by cutting the children’s centres they were “potentially cutting the heart out of the pre-school community”.

Councillor Ashley Evans (Lib Dem, Warley) who chaired the meeting with Councillor Barry Collins (Labour, Illingworth/Mixenden), said they wanted to ensure that the young people in the area got the right standard of service at a reasonable cost.

But parents wanted to know why these centres had been identified. Coun Evans replied: “These five centres were the ones where we did the basic maths and the costs are much higher.”

The council has also axed £130,000 annual funding for the Pre-School Learning Alliance, which has worked with toddler groups across Calderdale for 45 years.

Councillors have proposed to add an extra £2.5 million to the budget for looked after children.

There was more positive news for the adults, health and social care budget were only small cuts were planned.

Councillor Collins said they would be decommissioning Chatham Street, Halifax, and making more effective use of the buildings at Lower Edge, Elland, and Royd Square, Hebden Bridge.

Six voluntary organisations including Calderdale DART and Community Transport Calderdale, could share £145,000 so that they can prepare for their grants being totally axed during the next 18 months. Grants have been recommended for another eight organisations.

Plans are in place to increase parking charges again in 2014/15 but Coun Collins said they will be taking a rationalised approach.

Charges will be put in place for extra wheelie bins and businesses will be asked to help with the Christmas Lights or they could be scrapped.

One resident stressed how it was important to keep the gritters which were included in the highways emergency services.

Councillors were criticised for cutting the forestry service from six to four members of staff and using volunteers to help look after Jerusalem Farm and Ogden Water, which is owned by Yorkshire Water.

Chairman of Friends of the Rydings, Tom Ratcliffe, also hit out at the council over reducing the hours at the Smith Art Gallery to part-time opening depending on usage times saying that footfall would be higher if they got some fine art which generated more interest.

An extra £300,000 had been put into the budget to keep the leisure facilities open because the latest indications were that they were falling short of last year’s budget. Customer First office in Brighouse will be cut to three days instead of five.

Consultation will run until Monday, February 13. The final decisions will be taken at the annual budget council meeting on Monday, February 27.