In My View: Sure Start Centres

Sure Start Centres


George Bernard Shaw once said “If you were to place all the economists in the world end to end you still wouldn’t come to a conclusion”.

History records that nobody predicted the economic crash of the 1920’s.

Similarly, I can’t recall any of our economists or politicians pre-warning us about the most recent economic crash. How Gordon Brown must regret his words “We have brought about an end to boom and bust !”

The generally acknowledged truth about economics is that it is not like science,

it is vastly more unpredictable. It is on these very shaky foundations that politicians are making pronouncements of absolute certainty.

I suspect that the exchanges in the House of Commons have much more to do with tribal loyalties and forthcoming elections than any studying of the facts.

What we do know, for sure, is that every decision by an individual or an orgnisation, to spend or to do otherwise, will have consequences.

These are sometimes short-term and sometimes long-term and impact upon the quality of life we all enjoy as well as our financial health.

When Hampshire County Council proposed to cut £6 million from the budget for Sure Start Centres, it created a huge outcry, especially from young mothers who have first-hand experience of using the faclities.

A debate is now raging as to whether so much money can be saved whilst still retaining the services much as now.

The Prime Minister has insisted that all the money for Sure Start Centres has been provided to councils. The problem is that it is no longer “ring-fenced” and so councils are free to use some of the money for other services.

It’s quite a neat trick to pass blame for cuts from central government onto local government, but rather back-fires when both are run by the same political party!

At a recent meeting of Hampshire County Council, I criticised the quality of the consultation, the manner in which decisions are being made, without firstly consulting all members of the council and Sure Start Centre Managers.

I further pointed out that savings made today may actually lead to much greater social and health costs later on.

The nature of the game that we play on the council is that one side rarely ever acknowledges the other might be right.

Anyone listening to the debate would likely regard it as a dialogue of the deaf. That said, I do think my Lib Dem colleagues and I were able to voice some really valid and undeniable truths about the true value of our Sure Start Centres.

In a world of uncertainties about economics, I’m pretty sure that investment in this area pays the best dividends.


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