Children’s centre cuts ‘will not hit Labour wards’

LABOUR has been accused of focusing cuts on Conservative-held wards in Bradford in a deepening row over the closer of children’s centres.

Bradford’s Conservative group criticised draft budget plans which would see seven children’s centres closed, all in wards where there are no Labour councillors.

But the attack yesterday drew a fierce response from the Labour administration, which blamed the cuts on reductions in Government funding for the council.

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The council is proposing to close centres in Baildon, Menston and Burley, Ilkley, Haworth, Silsden, Bingley and Cottingley.

Conservative group leader Coun Glen Miller said: “There are no proposals to close any children’s centres in wards represented by Labour councillors.

“Colleagues and I are inspecting the budget proposals in detail to ascertain whether the targeted removal of the children’s centres is a part of a wider campaign to punish areas where residents don’t vote Labour, by reducing or removing services generally.”

The authority says it needs to save £89m over the next two years to balance its books.

Coun Ralph Berry, executive member for children’s services, said: “We have to prioritise the areas of greatest need with the highest number of children in poverty.

“We are not saying children in other areas won’t get a service but there will have to be reach out from the centre and we have heard interesting ideas from schools and others about how things can be done differently.

“This is happening because the Government cut one third from the early intervention grant. We have kept it going for as long as possible but we have got to the point where the scale of the cuts mean we have to think again.

“This is rotten politics. We have supported these services until the crunch has really hit.”

Bradford Council has already made cuts of £100m over the past three years and expects to make a further £115m of savings over the next three.

The current budget proposals would see council tax rise by 1.6 per cent in each of the next two years.