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Derbyshire council to close children centres and make more than 100 redundant

A cash-strapped Derbyshire council closing 10 children’s centres and making more than 100 people redundant, is paying education consultants hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Derbyshire County Council, which has a budget shortfall of £40 million this year, has paid £565,000 to two consultants for “strategic” help on children’s services, schools and learning.

This comes as the authority is due to agree plans to close 10 of its 22 children’s centres and cut more than 100 jobs from its 221-staff early help workforce.

The authority paid Dan Careless, of THJH Limited, £150,000 for a year and a half of work as a “strategic lead” for schools and learning from September 2022 to February 2024.

Meanwhile, the council also paid Matthew Booth, of Populate Consulting Ltd, £415,000 for a year and a half of work as a strategic partner for children’s services from October 2022 to March 2024.

The county council has been asked if either of the contracts have been renewed, with the last published contracts register in December detailing that both would have expired by now.

It says the contract with TJHJ has been extended up to a maximum of March 2025 with the same value of £150,000, which would decrease if it is ended before that date.

Meanwhile, it is still assessing a new contract for Populate with details including costs to be agreed shortly.

Last year, Mr Careless had said the authority’s assessment officers were handling up to 140 cases each for children who require high levels of support and the annual review team is handling more than 200 cases each.

He had said 50 more officers would be needed to be able to respond to parents whenever they have a query and the authority is “unable” to meet that sort of demand.

The authority plans to close 10 children’s centres and early help cut backs would save £3.25 million in staffing costs each year, the council says.

Union officials had said the cutbacks included the loss of 132.5 jobs but council papers say the workforce would be cut by 118.5 roles.

Dave Ratchford, UNISON East Midlands regional organiser, said: “It is hard not to see this as a pattern of incredible failure and absence of vision at the council at the moment. They’re telling us that they’re going to maintain the same service as last year – but they’re cutting 60 per cent of the staff dealing with the most vulnerable families and children in need.”  

“Derbyshire County Council are saving around £3 million on making all of these cuts yet they still seem to be advertising more and more high paid jobs at County Hall.”

A county council spokesperson said: “We are transforming the way we run our children’s services department, and are using two companies to help provide us with some extra capacity to do that.

“The costs that have been identified are within our budgets. We will be continuing to use these extra resources until the end of March 2025 or sooner if the transformation project comes to an end before that.

“Our transformation project aims to put our children’s services department in the best possible place to respond to the challenges we face at the moment. 

“We have to look to adapt to the environment we find ourselves in, and this means changing how we operate to support children, young people and their families. We need extra external advice and support to do this.”

 

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