Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Betts slams Tory and LibDem vote against protecting Children's Centres: it's no longer a Sure Start, but a series of backward steps

Speaking to a group of parents in Mosborough today, Clive Betts MP [Sheffield South East] said that he was appalled that, this week, Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs had voted against Labour’s attempts to protect children centres [1].

Clive Betts told the parents:
“We now know that you can’t trust a word that David Cameron and Nick Clegg have said about giving children the best start in life.

A year ago, David Cameron said he would protect and improve Sure Start Children’s Centres [2], yet despite this promise to voters, the budget for children’s centres has not been protected.

The Early Intervention Grant (EIG) through which these services are provided has been cut, in real terms, by about a quarter [3]. In Sheffield, this is a £7.2m cut – equivalent to £60 per head.

Before the election, Nick Clegg promised to ‘give every child the best start in life.’ [4] His promises are not worth the breath he uses to make them.

• Sure Start? – cut by 25%
• Education Maintenance Allowances? – to be removed from the vast majority of 16-18 year olds
• Tuition Fees? – not removed, but now to be £9000 a year at the vast majority of universities
• School budgets? – I understand every secondary school in his own Hallam constituency is getting a budget cut this year.
It’s no longer a Sure Start for our local children; it’s a series of backward steps.”

Clive Betts continued:
“This week, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported [5] that Labour’s investment in support for children and families – in child benefit, in working families tax credits, in childcare support – had seen child poverty cut from 17.4% to 10.5%. This was more than any other OECD country in the same period. Then, the report warned that child poverty reduction in the UK has stalled, and that we’re going to go backwards.”

Clive Betts concluded:

“I voted for this motion to protect children’s centres. Neither David Cameron nor Nick Clegg has the guts to be honest about the cuts that they are making to Sure Start.

Instead they have cut the budget, removed the ring fence and offloaded the problem and responsibility to local councils. Every Sure Start centre in Sheffield is having its budget cut.

These cuts are going to affect every child and every family in Mosborough and the rest of the city.”

Further information:
[1] Opposition Motion – 27 April 2011
That this House believes that improving the life chances of children and young people from all backgrounds should be central to Government policy; recognises that the Sure Start network of 3,600 Children's Centres, introduced by the previous administration, is crucial in delivering high quality early education and early intervention for children, as well as support, advice and specialist services for parents and carers; notes that the funding to local authorities for the Early Intervention Grant in 2011-12 represents a real terms cut of 22.4 per cent. nationally, compared to the 2010-11 allocations before in-year cuts to area based grants; recognises that, in the context of this cut to early intervention funding, the large, front-loaded cuts to other local authority funding streams, and the removal of the ring-fence around Sure Start funding, Sure Start Children's Centres will inevitably be put at risk; notes that before the General Election the Prime Minister promised to protect and strengthen Sure Start; and therefore calls on the Government to protect the Sure Start network of Children's Centres by thinking again about their deep cuts to Sure Start funding, to monitor the evidence and, if local authorities are choosing to disinvest in Sure Start centres, to commit to reinstating the ring-fence for Sure Start funding to ensure that vital and valued services are not lost.
2 “I want not just to repeat our commitment to keep Sure Start. But to set out how we will improve Sure Start.”
David Cameron, Supporting Parents speech, 11 january 2010, http://www.conservatives.com/News/Speeches/2010/01/David_Cameron_Supporting_parents.aspx

“We are strongly committed to Sure Start Children’s Centres”
David Cameron, National Childbirth Trust message (pre-election), http://www.nct.org.uk/active/network/election2010/conservative_party_response_to_nct_manifesto

3 EIG allocations for 2011/12 and 2012/13 attached

4 A Fresh Start for Britain, Liberal Democrat Party, October 2009
5 OECD report ‘Doing better for families’ published 27 April 2011, www.oecd.org/social/family/doingbetter