Only three of Sutton’s 14 children’s centres will close at the end of this financial year instead of the four recently proposed, following an extensive consultation with borough residents using the service.
As part of the restructure, the council has been looking at innovative ways to generate funds and has secured £250,000 of additional children’s centre funding through the co-location of children’s health service staff at children’s centre sites.
That means that altogether, the resulting savings are £727,000 a year, from an annual children’s centre’s budget which currently stands at £1.3m a year.
The changes are being made because Sutton Council has to save £31m from its annual budget by 2019 because of unprecedented Government cuts to funding and increased pressure on services.
The council has already saved £43m from its annual budget since 2010. Its annual budget currently stands at £148.4m.
Sutton Council ran an extensive consultation on the children’s centres through its Sutton’s Future campaign to see how savings could be made while trying to meet community needs. The eight-week consultation in October and November 2015 was delivered through an online and printed survey, and workshops in each of the borough’s 14 children’s centres that gave the public an opportunity to discuss the proposals face-to-face with officers. Survey responses were given by 437 people and 88 people attended the workshops.
Some of the key findings were:
• 46 per cent of respondents agreed with the council’s proposed option of six Hubs and four Access Points, and 39.1 per cent disagreed with the proposal.
• 46.9 per cent of respondents disagreed with the council proposal to close Beddington children’s centre.
• Workshop attendees said they felt listened to from the first phase of the consultation a year ago.
• 46 per cent of respondents agreed that £2.50 per child would be a reasonable price to pay for a pay-as-you-go session. But more respondents from the hard-to-reach group disagreed than agreed, showing that a £2.50 charge would be more likely to have an impact on this group of residents who may be most in need of children’s centres. The council is to look at charging £2.50 per family per session instead.
• 45.7 per cent of respondents said online was their preferred booking method compared to 26 per cent via a mobile app and 28 per cent wishing to book at the children’s centre either on the day or in advance.
Cllr Wendy Mathys, Chair of the Children, Family and Education Committee at Sutton Council, said:
“We want to thank all of the borough residents who took the time to attend one of the workshops or complete the survey.
“We have listened to what parents have told us throughout each consultation and as a result have increased the number of centres we will retain and will be introducing charges for some sessions in line with resident’s feedback. We are also changing the charge per session to £2.50 per family rather than per child, as requested by residents.
“Unprecedented Government cuts to our budget has meant we have had no choice but to reduce the size of the council and the services we offer. Our children’s centres are a valuable community resource and we have listened to parents to create a new model that retains as many of the services as possible.”
The consultation was carried out through Sutton’s Future, a campaign to involve residents in shaping the future of the borough through the Government cuts.
On Thursday 25 February the council’s Children, Family and Education Committee decided that the following six children’s centres will be a Hub:
• Amy Johnson
• Green Oak
• Thomas Wall
The following four children’s centres will be an Access Point:
• Manor Park
• Stanley Park
Victor Seymour children’s centre will be designated a Child Development Centre/Access Point.
The three children’s centres that will close at the end of this financial year are:
• Green Oak in Cheam
• High View
• The Grange