Eastbourne council to merge children’s centres

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TWO children’s centres in Eastbourne could be merged by East Sussex County Council – with the local authority denying the mooted changes are the result of belt-tightening.

Families across the town are being consulted over the plans to join up the West Rise centre with a similar facility in Shinewater – with similar schemes proposed across the county.

Hailsham’s Dunbar Drive would also merge with the Hailsham East Children’s Centre if the shake-up gets the eventual go-ahead.

County council bosses are keen to stress that no services would be cut, merely centralised at one centre or another in an effort to reduce management costs.

A spokesman for the authority also said that an intention to “ensure services are provided as effectively as possible,” were behind the plans, but potential financial savings appear to be the main motive.

No staff will lose their jobs, but a number of currently unfilled posts will be forfeited and planned new roles unfilled.

The council does not plan to close any of the buildings and those which will no longer act as children’s centres will be used to provide other services.

This means that the West Rise building will most likely continue being used by the nursery while the Dunbar Drive unit in Hailsham would be turned over to staff supporting children in care.

Council staff are also in talks with West Rise school about potential new uses for the Eastbourne site.

Speaking to the Herald this week, Councillor Nick Bennett, the authority’s head of learning and schools, said, “This is not a cost-cutting exercise; however the proposals will prevent the need to appoint additional management posts.

“This is really about making sure all our children’s centre buildings are fit for purpose, are in the right place, and can all really provide the best range and quality of facilities and services for young families.

“For a relatively small number of families it may mean services are delivered from a different location but it will be from better buildings with better facilities.

“Families will not have to travel much further to access the same services.”