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Four Redbridge children's centres face axe as council aims to plug £650k budget deficit

PUBLISHED: 15:22 06 December 2018 | UPDATED: 15:33 06 December 2018

Aldersbrook Children's Centre could be

Aldersbrook Children's Centre could be "downgraded" under new Redbridge Council Proposals. Photo: Google

Archant

Four of the borough’s children’s centres are facing the axe while a fifth could be “downgraded” to plug a £650,000 gap in Redbridge Council’s finances.

The council is launching a 12-week consultation on “re-shaping” its children’s centres on December 12.

It maintains a restructure is needed after sustaining £166m in government funding cuts since 2010.

But Conservative councillors oppose the proposals, arguing funds can be sourced from elsewhere.

Aldersbrook Children’s Centre, in Ingatestone Road, is proposed to be downgraded from a ‘hub’ to a ‘spoke’ centre, saving an estimated £60,000.

Hubs are accessible Monday to Friday from 8.30pm to 4.30pm while spokes are open only when sessions are being run there.

Four spoke centres, deemed “under-used”, are also proposed to be close.

These are Chadwell, in Grove Road; Forest, in David’s Way, Hainault; Oakdale, in Oakdale Road; and Winston Way, in Ilford.

If given the green light, this would leave the borough seven “hubs” and 10 “spokes”.

Charging parents for outdoor play sessions and baby massages, among other services, is also up for consideration - with low-income families exempt from fees.

Partners may also be charged for running sessions at children’s centres and the number of managerial employees is likely to be reduced, accounting for 90pc of costs.

Cllr Elaine Norman, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “We know that our children’s centres are highly valued by the families that use them.

“We’ve worked really hard to ensure irresponsible central government cuts have not impacted on these services like elsewhere.

“But the sustained financial pressures created by funding reductions requires some re-thinking of our delivery so that we can retain as many services as possible for parents and their children.”

Opposition leader Cllr Linda Huggett said: “The Labour council is always looking to blame the government for lack of funding when proposing cuts.

“Due to their ineptitude in controlling the council budget, valuable services such as childrens’ centres are now at risk.

“We do not agree that any centres should be downgraded or closed.”

Cllr Huggett suggested the funding gap could be plugged by scrapping the council’s “propaganda tool” Redbridge Life.

Full details of the proposals are available here.

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