ALMOST £1 million of cuts to York’s children’s centres and youth services have been hidden in council plans for a “transformation programme”, councillors have claimed.
Proposed changes to the way City of York Council operates have earmarked £5.48 million of savings in 2015/16 through its Rewiring Public Services scheme. The Labour-run authority says the programme will increase efficiency, flexibility and residents’ involvement in public services.
But the Liberal Democrat group said the council was attempting to mask a £980,000 reduction in spending on children’s and youth services, on top of about £600,000 of already specified cuts to these areas over the next two years contained in budget papers.
The party raised fears over lack of detail on how the additional “transformation” savings will be made. But Labour said it was looking to deliver services in a different way while reducing costs.
Budget documents obtained by the Lib Dems before being officially announced included reductions in 2015/16 for children’s centres and youth services. Labour said at the time that these were simply options.
Coun Carol Runciman, the Lib Dem spokeswoman for education, children and young people’s services, said: “We believe children’s centres and youth services must remain a key priority for the council.
"Children and young people must not bear the brunt of cuts and neither should services which can genuinely transform lives. Labour must recognise early intervention and investment will prevent more expensive help being needed in the long term.”
The transformation programme report said youth support services may be moved away from “bricks and mortar provision”.
Lib Dem leader Coun Keith Aspden said this suggested children’s centres and youth clubs were facing closure or cutbacks.
He said: “I am also concerned about the way Labour tried to contest the cuts were happening, then tried to bury the specifics by not detailing them in their main budget, as is normal when money is being removed from a service.”
Coun Janet Looker, cabinet member for education, children and young people, said councils faced tough choices, but a “looser and more external model of youth service provision” would ultimately help more young people. She said quality services could still be provided even if they were not based in a children’s centre.
She said: “Ultimately, savings have to be found, and what we are trying to do is make those savings through changing how our buildings are used while minimising the impact on services themselves – it will be interesting to see how Liberal Democrats think savings can be made without fundamentally remodelling services in this way.”