Birmingham City Council claims their proposals to radically reform Early Years Services will greatly improve the provision of services but the detailed plans reveal a number of Children’s Centres have been earmarked for closure.
Steve McCabe MP (Birmingham Selly Oak), Jack Dromey MP (Birmingham Erdington) and Richard Burden MP (Birmingham Northfield) are requesting an urgent meeting with the Council’s Chief Executive Stella Manzie to discuss the proposals.
A spokesperson for the MPs said, “We understand the council is about to embark on a 60 day consultation but it’s difficult to see exactly what they are consulting on. We have no idea how much money they say has been removed by central government, how much these proposals will save and how closing existing provision will lead to an enhanced service. We’ve already been contacted by a number of constituents who have expressed concerns and we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t ask for talks at the highest level.
“We are happy to back the council in their demands for more government money to protect existing services and we welcome plans to improve services but we need to understand exactly how they’ve arrived at these decisions and how these plans will work. At present we have vague platitudes.”
The Council says that fewer children are assessed as having a good level of development before they start school and that their new service is an opportunity to improve outcomes for children and families. They date their plans back to the Review by Lord Warner in 2013 and claim they are responding to a significant reduction in budget. They say they’ve already had 3428 responses to their plans although it’s not clear who the respondents are or what exactly they were asked. The council say ‘families should be able to choose where and how they access support’.
Critics claim this is essentially a case of the council contracting out Early Years provision and leaving the new providers, Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and partners Barnardo’s, Spurgeons, St Paul’s Community Development Trust and The Springfield Project to get on with making the cuts. These claims seem to be supported by the Council’s own consultation document which shows detailed maps with plans for the closure of 26 Children’s Centres across Birmingham.
The MPs’ spokesperson said, “We are happy to be part of a proper consultation but we need all the facts on the table and an open and transparent system. How else can we respond to enquiries from our constituents?”