Sure Start cash cut 51 per cent in four years

John Healey, MP
John Healey, MP

New figures have revealed the extent of Government funding cuts that have forced the proposed closure of 13 Sure Start centres in Rotherham.

Rotherham Council revealed in February that its early years and child care service budget is being reduced by £2.2m from £5.053m for 2014-16, and that as a result of this it would need to reduce the number of its Sure Start centres from 22 to nine.

But Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey has found Sure Start funding has been cut consistently since 2010. In the last four years it has been slashed by more than half – despite the Prime Minister’s pre-election pledge to protect Sure Start.

Between 2010-11 and 2014-15 Rotherham has lost £8.6m for Sure Start centres.

Mr Healey said: “Just before the election, David Cameron made a personal promise to keep and improve Sure Start.

“I wrote to him a month ago to tell him what’s happening in Rotherham and urging him to reconsider his funding cuts. He hasn’t even had the decency to reply.

“The closure plans are 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.”

Figures revealed by the MP show funding coming to Rotherham for Sure Start was £15.9m in 2010-11 but that this fell to £8.4m in 2014-15. In real terms it is a drop of 51.3 per cent over the four years.

Rotherham’s funding began to be reduced straight after the general election, dropping by more than £4m – 26 per cent – by 2011/12.

From 1998 to 2010, 3,600 Sure Start centres were opened to support families and help children to have a good start in life.

But nearly 600 centres have closed across the country since 2010 and childcare costs are rising five times faster than pay.

Mr Healey is encouraging parents and staff to take part in the council’s consultation on the closures, which runs until April 30.

Three of the centres earmarked for closure – Cortonwood, Silver Birch and Wath Victoria – are in Wentworth and Dearne constituency.