MP vows to help borough’s children’s centres which could face funding cut

Brent could face �1.5m shortfall

An MP who holds the government to account has labelled proposed funding cuts to children’s centres in Brent as “devastating” but has vowed the help protect them.

Sharon Hodgson MP, shadow children’s minister, made the claims during a visit to the Wembley Primary Children’s Centre today (Thursday).

The centre in East Lane, which provides a pre-school and gives health, employment and parenting advice to families in the borough’s most deprived areas, is one of 15 Sure Start Children’s Centres in the borough which could face funding cuts as part of the plans.

As reported in today’s (Thurs) edition, the government are planning to slash �400m from the pot, which could leave Brent with an estimated �1.5million shortfall in their budget for children’s centres, a service many mothers describe as a “lifeline”

Ms Hodgson told the Times: “I wanted to come and see first hand what great work Brent is doing with these centres.

“It is absolutely fantastic, and it is devastating to think that these children may be let down if the funding is cut.”

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Ms Hodgson added that her party will set up a Labour Friends of Sure Start network to help protect them.

She added: “If you believe in early intervention like I do, it is about prioritising the right thing. Starting young may prevent these children from becoming troubled later in life.”

However, Cllr Michael Pavey (Lab), chairman of the locality board which covers Wembley Primary and Preston Park Children’s Centre, said that preserving the centres were an “absolute priority” for the council and promised to find the funds to keep them running ahead of the upcoming budget.

He said: “We are committed to keeping them running for the next two years at least.”

Cllr Pavey also rejected the idea that the portion of the funding taken away from Sure Start will go towards free nursery places for two-year olds.

He said: “We have to dispel this myth. It does not have to be one or the other. We are going to trim the fat and prioritise children.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education (DfE) said: “There is enough funding in the system to retain a very strong national network of Sure Start Centres.”