This represents over 10% of the combined Early Years budget of £67m for the last financial year. The official explanation was that there was a lower than budgeted spend on Children’s Centres, staffing savings and lower than budgeted spend on early years provision for 2year olds.
Criticism from opposition Councillor’s centred on the absence of adequate explanation in the report not of the impact of the under spend on services for the cities youngest citizens.
The Budget for 2012-13 confirmed cuts of £5.3m to Children’s Centre’s through the move to a new locality model and the removal of a layer of management. These cuts also included a reduction in service in less deprived areas and move towards a more targeted service
The consultation in the period leading up to setting the budget for 2012-13 showed ‘strong support …for not implementing further reductions in Early Years.’ suggesting early year savings have been made by stealth.
This underspend of £8m has to be taken together with total cuts of £6m to Early Years services last year.
At April’s Cabinet meeting £1m was cut from the 2013-14 funding for Children’s Centres through the introduction of a new funding formula.
Cuts to Early Years services is a national issue with a recent warning that there is a growing gap in Government funding for free places for two, three and four year olds is pushing up the cost of childcare for parents.