Children's centres at risk from cutbacks, warns Newcastle MP

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03 Nov 2009

Newcastle MP Paul Farrelly has welcomed the opening of three new children’s centres in the Borough but warned that urgent action is needed to protect them from a future of cutbacks and closures.

Mr Farrelly said the Conservatives were committed to cutting £200 million a year from Sure Start budgets, putting in jeopardy the expanding network of children’s centres across Newcastle and undermining efforts to combat child poverty and to help vulnerable families.

His warning followed the opening of new centres, at Crackley Bank and Chesterton Primary Schools in Newcastle and at Maryhill Primary, Kidsgrove - some of the most disadvantaged areas of Newcastle Borough.

Children’s centres act as ‘one-stop shops’ providing free childcare, early education, health and support for families with children under five.

Over the past three years, seven children’s centres have opened in the Borough in the first two phases of their development. These are at Maryhill and Clough Hall, both in Kidsgrove, and at Knutton, Oaklands (serving Porthill and Bradwell), Hempstalls, Crackley Bank and Chesterton.

Two more – at Clayton and Audley – are due to open next year with a tenth planned for Madeley.

The future of the network has, however, been thrown into doubt by proposed spending cuts announced by the Conservative Party, said Mr Farrelly, who has voiced his fears in a letter to Staffordshire’s Director of Children and Lifelong Learning, Peter Traves.

“Such drastic cuts as those planned by the Conservatives would certainly force some of the children’s centres to close, at a time when we need them most,” said Mr Farrelly. “Three years ago there were no children’s centres, but now Newcastle has seven and more are planned.”

“Children’s centres make a huge difference to the lives of parents and under fives, some of whom are among the most disadvantaged in our community.

“We know the early years of a child’s life are vitally important, so it is imperative that these centres are protected and that the County Council completes the last phase of their development and protect them from irresponsible cutbacks in spending,” he added.