|Mikey Pavey launches Labour Friends of Sure Start|
Now as Deputy Leader he and Cabinet colleagues are discussing plans to part-privatise Children's Centres in order to save money.
In Phase One of the scheme to make Children's Centres 'sustainable' a tier of local management was removed. Phase Two brought in private and voluntary providers for some Centres:
Now Phase Three proposes to out-source day to day management of and governance of other Centres:. Phase Two comprises the reconfiguration of Barham Library Children’s Centre, St Raphael’s Intergenerational Centre and Treetops Children’s Centre to provide children’s centre nursery places via private and voluntary providers. This change was approved by Cabinet in July and the early years team is working with Property Services and Legal Services to develop suitable agreements and get the new provision in place.
This excludes Curzon, Fawood and Challenge House who already have a partnership.3.19 Phase Three proposal. The proposed third phase of change is to develop a new model of delivery. It is proposed to consult service users, staff and other stakeholders on a proposal to tender the management and day to day governance of the children’s centres to an experienced provider with that provider taking on the running of the buildings, the employment and management of staff and the responsibility for service delivery to meet the core offer requirements.3.20 Under this model the selected provider will resource and develop the required universal services and the Local Authority will fund the targeted Early Intervention services for the most vulnerable families. Under this model the strategic role for the Early Years Service will be to secure good quality children’s centres, challenge practice and performance management, supporting good Ofsted outcomes and focusing resources on the targeted households and other families with additional needs.3.21 Essentially this model attempts to deliver a similar level of service to the current model (or potentially better) for a reduced level of resourcing from the local authority. It looks to future sustainability, since external service providers will have the ability to leverage in additional funds from their own contacts for example the National Lottery, European funding, etc which the current service, as a council service, cannot access.
The proposals, following DfE rules, have to go to formal consultation taking 3 - 4 months and the Council would have to devise an appropriate procurement process which may prove complex.
Eventually, unless the proposals are successfully challenged, Centre staff, and some office staff, would be TUPEd over to the new provider.
It will be argued, as often with cuts and privatisation, that new efficiencies will reduce costs without detriment to the quality of service, and further that this is the only way to enable Children's Centres to survive in the Council's dire financial situation. Councillors will point to other local authorities where such arrangements exist as well as those that have closed their Centres.