» Friday, January 28, 2011

Sure Start

Asked whether the Prime Minister was concerned by the cuts to Sure Start children’s centres, the PMS said the money for the programme came from the Early Intervention Grant and that there was sufficient money in that grant to maintain a network of Sure Start centres. Local authorities also had duties under the Childcare Act to ensure there was sufficient provision to meet local need. They also had duties to consult before changing provision, such as opening, closing or significantly changing children’s centres in their areas.

It was put to him that the amount of money in the grant was 11 per cent lower than the previous year and was a cut. The PMS said funding across the public sector was tight and that an 11 per cent reduction was less than in many other budgets across the public sector. Savings needed to be found. The PMS added that the assumption that if there was less money in a budget then there had to be a reduction in services, was not one the Government accepted. More efficient ways to run services had to be found.

Put that cutting money from the Early Intervention Grant amounted to the same thing as cutting the budget of Sure Start centres, the PMS said that the Government remained committed to Sure Start and children’s centres. He added that it should not come as a shock that the Government had needed to find areas across the public sector where money could be saved. The PMS re-iterated that it was important to challenge the assumption that reduced spending always translated into fewer public services.

Asked whether central Government would step in if councils breached the Act, the PMS said breaching the act constituted a breaking of the law because of the statutory duty.

Put that Margaret Eaton, the Conservative leader of the Local Government Association, had described local authorities as one of the most efficient parts of the public sector and had said cuts to services were inevitable, the PMS reiterated the need to find significant savings. The country was borrowing 150bn this year and 120m a day was going on paying interest on the debt. If we did not tackle that we were going to waste more money on debt interest and there would be less for public services.

Asked whether the Prime Minister would urge local authorities not to close Sure Start centres, the PMS said decisions about what was needed at a local level needed to be taken at a local level, and that there was a clearly defined way about how they should go about this.

original source.

Briefing took place at 10:00 | Search for related news

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