Council children's centres spending slashed by a quarter

By Joe Lepper

| 21 March 2019

New evidence on the extent of cuts to council spending on Sure Start children's centres has emerged.

Councils spent £156m less on children's centres between 2014 and 2018 according to LGA analysis

Latest analysis by the Local Government Association (LGA) suggests council spending on children centres has fallen by £156.7m over the past four years.

While in 2014/15 councils were spending £637.3m on children's centres, by 2017/18 this had slipped to £480.5m - a fall of 24.5 per cent, the  research found.

Since 2009, around 1,000 children's centres have closed, according to Sutton Trust research released last year.

The LGA said more centre closures are likely to follow - councils continue to cut early help and early years spending due to rising demand for looked-after-children services and shrinking central government funding.

"Children's centres can provide a lifeline for children, parents and carers, offering an incredibly important service in the local community," said LGA children and young people board chair Anntoinette Bramble.

"This could be anything from advice for parents on physical and mental health, caring for a new-born, or simply a place for children to enjoy free-play and interact with one another.

"While many councils have adapted well to the funding pressures and changed how they provide children's centre services, there is a growing sense that councils have done all they can within ever tightening budgets.

"It is inevitable that without new investment from government in children's services, councils will face the difficult but unavoidable decision of having to cut or close early help services such as children's centres."

The LGA is calling on the government to ensure its next spending review helps children's services cope with demand and keep early help services running.

Commenting on the LGA's findings, social mobility charity The Sutton Trust's executive chairman Peter Lampl, said: "Good quality early years provision makes a huge difference to the development of children, especially those who come from the poorest homes.

"Yet, as the LGA's analysis shows, cash-strapped councils have had to drastically cut the spending on children's centres by a staggering 25 per cent. This is why it is vital that going forward government provides sustainable funding for children's services."

In February, analysis by a group of charities, including Action for Children, found that funding for children's services fell by a third between 2010/11 and 2017/18.

In the same month a survey by the Local Government Information Unit found that around a quarter of councils are planning children's services funding cuts this year, citing austerity and rising demand as key factors.

Analysis of Department for Education Section 251 data shows spending on children's centres has halved since 2010.

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