Bolton council to close 13 children’s centres to save £1.5m

Bolton council has announced proposals to close 13 children’s centres in a bid to save £1.5 million.

The plans will involve merging the local authority’s Family Support, Early Years and Childcare and Children’s Centre services in to a new integrated Start Well service.

The remaining children’s centre building will remain open for use for the wider community but will need to be managed by a third party sector, to build on or expand the services offered. The majority of savings are expected to be met through vacant posts, voluntary severance and voluntary early retirement. Council bosses are confident that no forced redundancies will be required.

The cuts are part of Bolton council’s wider aim to slash £43 million from its budget by 2017, to meet central government cuts.

However, conservative councillor Bob Allen has argued that according Bolton Council’s latest account, it has £204 million of ‘useable reserves’.

Allen argued: "I take the point that if you take this money from the reserves then the assumption is that you have to take that same amount each year for children's centres - so it's not a one-off, but even if you did that for five years, it wouldn't make a huge dent in the reserves."

Councillor Ann Cunliffe, cabinet member for education, schools, safeguarding and looked after children, said: "Children's centres have, for the past few years, provided vital services for our most disadvantaged residents and been a valuable asset to our communities.

"It is with much regret and with a heavy heart that we now have no choice but to reconsider the buildings we have and look at ways we can save money. That said, we are working more effectively with partners and this gives us the opportunity to merge services within the council as well as offer a holistic service with health professionals. 

"It is important to stress that no buildings are 'closing', but in order to make the savings required we must seek alternative uses for them.

“There would still be essential services provided in areas that need them most and outreach work will continue with the most vulnerable families. It is essential that we remain committed to getting our youngsters school ready, and bringing together the right advice, support and professionals under one roof will help us achieve this."