Sure Start Call-In

Sure Start closures call-in: Labour submits grounds for challenge

Today Medway Labour group submitted its grounds for calling in Cabinet?s decision to close six Sure Start centres and downgrade nine others to part-time satellite status.

Our reasons are substantial and contrast with the empty rhetoric of Cllr Stuart Tranter, one of the Conservative councillors who has also called in the decision. He was quoted in yesterday?s Medway Messenger as saying:

‘I want to make sure the people who depend on this service won?t be worse off. If anything I hope to make sure it improves. If he has made any representations on behalf of the families affected to his Tory friends in the Cabinet so far they have fallen on deaf ears. If he has not yet done so then there is no reason to expect that they will listen to him at this late stage.’

Cllr Adam Price, Medway Labour Spokesman for Children and Young People said:

‘This closure plan has been presented as a financial necessity, not a political choice. But other councils, including Labour-run Milton Keynes, have managed to make substantial savings and transformed services without closing a single centre.

‘Medway deserves innovative solutions like those found in Milton Keynes. Instead we suffer cynical, politically-motivated cuts from a second-rate administration.?

Cllr Clive Johnson, who sits on the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee added:

‘If Cllr Tranter believes that the vital service provided to families by Sure Start centres is going to be improved after this damaging process he is either delusional or disingenuous.

‘Last month we saw the Tories pull out all the stops to nobble a motion I proposed to full council which would have taken cash out of the hands of councillors and put it back into Sure Start budgets.

‘It is fantasy for them to now suggest they are standing up for the service users they have criticised and vilified at every opportunity. Their call-in must be called out for what it is ? a political stunt.’

Cllr Pat Cooper, who also sits on the O&S committee said:

‘We have had no detail on what services will be offered where and by whom under this new model.
‘Last week Cabinet nodded through a plan which neither the public nor opposition councillors had been given any chance to analyse or question.
‘I am astonished that the Outstanding Sure Start at Brompton which serves our Forces families is one of those earmarked for closure.
‘And the loss of its partner centre at Burnt Oak leaves a massive gap in the provision for vulnerable families in one of the most deprived parts of Medway.
‘ These particular closures are proof that there is no reason behind this flawed plan.’

Below is the text submitted as grounds for Labour’s call-in:

Medway Labour Group are calling in this decision to enable scrutiny and discussion of Option G which has not yet taken place. This option G was not included in the 6 week public consultation, yet it is the one which has been selected as the way forward by Cabinet.

  • We want to know what criteria the council used to select the six Sure Start centres earmarked for closure, as well as the impact assessments.
  • What is the rationale for closing two centres deemed outstanding by Ofsted, and downgrading the third to satellite status?
  • We do not yet know under the council’s G Plan which of the 10 services (currently available to children and parents in Medway?s 19 SureStart centres) will be available on which days and at what times at each of the four hubs and nine wellbeing centres across Medway.
  • What will be the communication arrangements to families in areas of Medway affected by the six closures. Where will they be signposted to?
  • What assurances can be given to make early years advice available to the private sector?
  • How will the new arrangements continue to support childminders?
  • How does closing the Sure Start centre at Brompton-Westbrook accord with the Council?s Armed Forces Covenant?
  • How will closing Burnt Oak Sure Start centre in Gillingham help Medway’s most disadvantaged families as assessed as under the Government’s pupil premium criteria?
  • How will the council be able to afford to lose just 15 jobs when the council were planning to lose 50 jobs during the consultation?