Children’s centre cuts agreed meaning fewer staff and reduced hours

Yatton Library's newly redecorated and refurbished building.

Yatton Library's newly redecorated and refurbished building. - Credit: Archant

No children’s centres in North Somerset will close, but cuts which will see their hours and staff reduced have been agreed.

North Somerset Council has cut £315,000 from its children’s centre and nursery budget over the next two years.

Fourteen children’s centres and three day nurseries were reviewed during consultation, and changes will be made in Yatton, Pill, Banwell and Ashcombe in Weston.

The executive voted on June 26 to approve cuts which mean Yatton and Pill’s children’s centres will be reduced with the loss of two part-time community service officer posts.

Cllr Jan Barber, executive member for children’s services, said: “Part of the exercise to balance the budget involved savings in children’s centres.

“At first we thought this would involve complete closure of one or two centres to save the £300,000 involved. Following consultation, and some adjustments, we are no longer cutting two children’s centres.

“We will still provide services, but for some centres there will be a reduction in hours. There will be opportunities to provide services via outreach.”

Cllr Tom Leimdorfer said he was worried a reduction in services could lead to fewer people using them – which could in turn provide a reason for centres to be closed down completely in the future.

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He said: “There is a real danger with the staff cuts of a vicious circle with less availability, and less use until eventually one might consider a need to close them.

“I know it is a forlorn hope local authorities finances will improve, but we are trying investments to generate more income, and I hope children’s centres can be put among the highest priorities for restoration should finances improve.”

Council leader Nigel Ashton agreed children’s centres would be among its priorities should the financial situation improve.

Under the children’s centre changes, Long Ashton Children’s Centre will be remodelled, at a cost of £40,000, to enable Early Birds Nursery to provide an additional 12 places for children aged two and under.

During the consultation, some centres said they could not meet the needs of families at present and did not know how they would manage with fewer staff.