I have this week written to Martin Kimber, Chief Executive of Rotherham Council, asking him to do all he can to guarantee that Sure Start Children’s Centres will not face the axe due to a cut in Government funding for early years’ services.
Despite earlier promises from the Government, Sure Start is facing cuts across the country. The Chancellor of the Exchequer claimed that the dedicated grant for Sure Start would be frozen for the next few years but the new Early Intervention Grant which replaces it has been cut by £1.4 billion up to April 2013.
The Chancellor has also removed the ringfence, which prevents councils from using the money on other services; so large cuts to Rotherham Council’s main funding from central government could mean that budgeters are tempted to dip into the pot to plug gaps in other areas.
I have also asked local government chiefs to protect facilities provided by Children’s Centres, after the Government announced its intention to scrap key obligations for Centres in poorer areas which guarantee that good quality childcare is available during working hours.
First the Education Maintenance Allowance was scrapped, then we had a tripling of university tuition fees, and now I am very worried that the Prime Minister has broken his pre-election promise to protect Sure Start - another bad decision which will make it harder for the next generation to get on in life.
Of course all services need to look to be more efficient, but cuts which go too far and too fast could mean poorer services for children and families, and maybe even a loss of some Sure Start Centres.
They provide real help to thousands of children and parents across the Rother Valley, and it would be a real tragedy if some of them were forced to close when they have just begun to pay real dividends.
I hope that Rotherham Council will do everything possible to keep our Centres open and maintain these services; I am prepared to fight and campaign to make sure that that happens.