Council bosses have confirmed they will close all but four of the borough’s dedicated children’s centres as part of a £600,000 cost-cutting exercise in Solihull.
Three of the centres will remain open in the north of the borough – Chelmsley Wood, Kingshurst and Smiths Wood – with Mill Lodge, in Shirley, being saved in south Solihull.
Coun Ken Meeson, cabinet member for health, made the decision to ‘de -designate’ the remaining 10 children’s centres across the borough, saying the buildings are not being used.
The new system will also look at recruiting more volunteers and where children’s centres are not available, the services will be run from community buildings like libraries.
Coun Howard Allen (Green, Shirley West) said: “The [council] think that closing all but four centres and having them all run by volunteers will actually improve services. I totally disagree.
“In my own experience, the first year of a child’s life is very difficult for a parent. Research shows that helping parents in the first two years is the best, and most cost efficient, way of helping their children to be happy and successful in life.
“Solihull Council are failing to grasp the reality of the situation.”
The children’s centres are currently run by children’s charities, Barnardo’s, 4Children, The Children’s Society and Spurgeons.
A consultation was launched earlier this year as part of a review of the future children’s centres in the borough.
Coun Meeson said: “There was an extensive review and consultation on Children’s Centres and our proposals to improve support for children and families through our Early Help programme (‘Best Start in Life’) earlier this year and the report to the showed nearly 90 per cent support from parents for the proposed improved services.
“The report also gave details of the very low usage of most existing children’s centres and demonstrated that although families are automatically registered, the actual attendance has been quite minimal, with the result that over 25 per cent of the budget has been spent on maintaining buildings rather than on providing the services that will benefit children in their early years.
“Solihull Council is one of 20 ‘Early Intervention’ Local Authorities piloting a new approach across a range of services to make sure that spending is prioritised on services that make a real difference to people and making sure that money is spent on services rather than buildings. We are however retaining those centres where support has been better and using these as a base for the wider programme.”