23rd Apr, 2017

Coventry libraries, youth clubs and children's centres face takeovers or closure

Correspondent 20th Feb, 2017

SOME Coventry council libraries, youth clubs, children’s centres and nurseries face closure if community volunteers or companies do not step in to run them.

There will be no library closures in 2016/7, but latest proposals to go before the ruling Labour cabinet on March 7 could see Earlsdon, Finham and Cheylesmore libraries run by community groups.

Discussions regarding Caludon and Coundon libraries being taken over in the same way will also continue, the council says.

The Save Coventry Libraries campaign say evidence nationally shows the vast majority of services where communities step in to run them – perhaps with shelves of books to be loaned from community halls – end up closing soon after anyway.

Under the same final proposals for the ‘Connecting Communities’ £3.5million savings plan, the council’s universal provision of youth centres and clubs would end – with takeover proposals sought from the private sector and community volunteers.

The future of children’s centres and nurseries are also threatened, following a public consultation on the proposals, which could see 85 job losses.

The council says a targeted and specialist youth offer would focus only on the hardest to reach and most vulnerable young people.

A Transition Fund of £525,000 will be used to help facilitate takeovers of services.

Kevin Maton, cabinet member for education and skills, said more time was needed to work with local people to find ways of keeping libraries open.

He added: “We know from the number of petitions we have received and talking to residents that these services matter to people.

“We have already outlined other savings that the council has to make as part of its final budget announcement. There are very few services that are not affected.”

Labour councillors blame government funding cuts to the council’s budget of £95million a year since 2010.

Eight children’s centres in Bell Green, Foleshill, Tile Hill, Radford, Moat House, Middle Ride, Gosford Park and Hillfields are proposed to become family hubs, providing a range of services for 0 to 19-year-olds (including nursery provision if it can be delivered by schools or independent nursery providers instead of the council).

Contracts will end in three children’s centres at Tommies, Flutterbies and Valley House by the end of May. The services provided by these centres will transfer to the remaining children’s centres in the short-term until the city wide changes are finalised.

Five of the former children’s centres will see continued or increased nursery provision for two to four-year-olds, where schools or independent nursery providers are proposing to deliver the service instead of the council.

Where this is not possible, any existing council-provided nursery provision will end.

The council says it continues to remain committed to increasing the provision of nurseries for those in most need.

Ed Ruane, cabinet m\ember for children and young people, said: “We are having to focus our efforts on the most vulnerable. But I also appreciate concerns of local people. The reality is that as a result of government actions we simply cannot provide children’s centres to everyone in the way we used to.”

“This will mean working much more closely with partners like schools and the NHS to provide integrated support in one place.”