Slashed budget forces Camden nursery centres to close

A Kentish Town children’s centre will close in August and a Kilburn children’s centre will close next year, as part of �3.2million cuts to nursery provision for the under-fives in Camden.

At a cabinet meeting last Wednesday night, councillors agreed to close Caversham Children’s Centre in Kentish Town and find an alternative provider to operate a slimmed-down nursery on the same site.

They also approved plans to close Acol Children’s Centre in Kilburn in 2012 and find an alternative provider to operate a nursery there.

The council spends �32.1m a year funding early years and has decided to make 10 per cent cuts – slashing �3.2m off its budget over the next three years because of central government cuts. To achieve this, it also plans to cut free nursery provision on offer from 25 hours per week to the statutory 15 hours.

The council will continue to fund 800 free places which will be available for the most deprived children in the borough to attend nursery for 25 hours a week.

It will also increase fees by 10 per cent for the under-threes from 2011. Parents will still have access to extra nursery provision if they wish to pay for it.

There will also be a reduction in grants to community nurseries – which are funded but not run by the council – as well as drop-in centres.

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The meeting heard deputations from those who are opposed to the closures.

Hugo Pierre of Camden Unison told the council chamber: “The new 10 per cent fee increases and the possibility of charging for an additional 10 hours a week for full time places for three to four-year-olds will affect the poorest families.”

Finance boss Cllr Theo Blackwell said there would still be 15 children’s centres in the borough when many councils had reduced their services to five.

However, after the meeting, the Liberal Democrats “called in” the motion which means the scrutiny committee will have to look at the proposals again and then the cabinet. Keith Moffitt, leader of the Lib Dems, said: “We feel the nurseries have had a bad deal and the cabinet should have another look at the excellent services provided by Camden Community Nurseries.”