Government to blame for Sure Start closures

Government funding cuts are to blame for 13 Sure Start centres closing, says MP John Healey.

Rotherham’s early years and child care service budget is being reduced by £2.2m from £5.053m.

Rotherham Council announced today that they are consulting on the closure of 13 of the town’s 22 Sure Start centres in 2015/16. The remaining nine would operate as a cluster to form seven registered centres, with wider catchment areas.

Three of those earmarked for closure – Cortonwood, Silver Birch and Wath Victoria – are in Mr Healey’s Wentworth & Dearne constituency.

He said: “This will be a huge blow for the families who have valued their local Sure Start centre as a hub of support and friendship, as well as a place their children are well cared for.

“David Cameron is directly to blame for these closures, and I have written to him to tell him what’s happening in Rotherham.

“Just before the election in 2010, he promised to keep and improve Sure Start.

“Since then nearly 600 centres have closed and childcare costs are rising five times faster than pay. Meanwhile he’s given millionaires a tax cut.

“We’re starting to see the impact of deep government cuts in our area.

“Each year, they’ve cut Sure Start grants more and more. The council has been plugging the gap but with their funding being slashed too, they have had no choice but to announce these closures.

“I will be doing all I can to make sure people have as much information as possible and support groups in the constituency who want to take over these centres.”

Despite promises before the election to protect Sure Start, funding was cut as soon as the Coalition government came to office. Rotherham Council’s funding was cut by 26 per cent – more than £4m – by 2011/12.

The Early Intervention Grant, which the government brought in to replace previous sources of funding for Sure Start, was scrapped in April 2013.

From 1998 to 2010, Labour opened 3,600 Sure Start centres, to support families and help children get the right start in life.

• The council has begun a public consultation and will be holding several information meetings. More information can be found here.