Sure Start closure claim 'is nonsense'
The Government has dismissed claims 26 Sure Start children's centres have closed in the Westcountry since the coalition came to power.
According to a written parliamentary answer, 401 centres nationally have either closed or been "re-organised" since May 2010. Labour claimed it was the result of the Sure Start budget being slashed by one-third.
But the Department for Education said the claims were "nonsense" and just 25 centres nationally had actually closed for business.
The parliamentary answer suggested that in Cornwall 40 centres have been cut back to just 18, a reduction of 22. But Cornwall Council insisted no buildings had been closed, and 40 geographical areas had been "federated" to 18 – meaning the cost of paperwork could be slashed.
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But in Torbay, four centres have been closed – down from seven to three. A council spokesman said: "The number of places in Torbay delivering services to children and their families remains the same as in 2010. However, the way our children's centres are managed has changed – the management has been streamlined into three centres instead of seven to reduce costs and to enable us to continue to deliver support and services in the same number of places across Torbay."
Other local authorities in the region have retained the same number of centres since before the election: Devon 43, Somerset 41, Plymouth 17 and Isles of Scilly one.
Sharon Hodgson, Labour's Shadow Children's Minister, said: "Before the election, David Cameron said he would protect Sure Start. Parents will feel really let down."
But a Department for Education spokesperson said: "This is nonsense. There are over 3,000 Sure Start centres in England and as this (answer) states just 25 have actually closed, less than 1%."