Thursday, 4 February 2010

Labour should be ashamed

Yesterday I visited the Darlington Storysack and Toy Resources charity, based at Corporation Road School. It is faced with possible closure, and certainly a massive reduction in the service it can offer, thanks to the Labour Cabinet's proposed budget cuts.

Funded by a grant of £75,000 per annum, the charity which runs this superb service faces the complete removal of their subsidy following this year's budget, though alternative funds of £20,000 have been found from elsewhere in the Council's budget. Still, losing £55,000 per annum means that all five staff face redundancy. At best they will have to limp along with one member of staff, unless they can find alternative funding.

The charity provides a variety of important services to children, families, childcare providers, schools and support agencies in Darlington. It provides a popular, non-threatening method of encouraging parents and carers to share stories and participate in valuable play learning experiences with their children. The charity aims to provide excellence in the personal, social and emotional development of children throughout Darlington and to promote communication, language, literacy and mathematical skills. The commitment of staff and volunteers is recognised by everyone who comes into contact with them: professionals, parents and carers.

They have a huge library of games, toys and story-telling props which are loaned out to parents and to many Council and voluntary organisations. They go into Children's Centres and Schools and run play events and story-telling.
In the photo above, you can see just a small selection of the numerous toy boxes the charity holds. Meanwhile, I am being introduced to the delights of The Night Pirates story. Sadly, I chickened out of donning a pirate hat.

The current Labour government has put millions into programmes such as ‘Every Child a Talker’ and ‘Every Child a Reader’, yet only a few schools in Darlington enjoy these benefits. The charity has filled this gap by working collaboratively with multi-agency professionals to make and develop resources to support these initiatives. They have been used by numerous schools and nurseries in the public, private and voluntary sectors.

But the Labour cabinet haven't given them time to look for alternative funding. Instead of doing the sensible thing, which would have been to ask them to make some efficiency savings, perhaps by encouraging greater involvement by volunteers, and to have worked with them over the course of a year, say, to try to find alternative funding, the charity were simply told a couple of weeks ago that their funding would be removed following the budget.

Just like the Early Years Inclusion Service, this proposal should be lifted out of the budget process. Time should be given to allow the charity to develop alternative sources of funding. Just to cut them adrift now makes no sense.

Heartless, uncaring, macho, bullying. Darlington nu Labour's finest hour. Yet again, disadvantaged children bear the brunt of Labour's electioneering budget cuts. I hope their councillors, and even some of the Cabinet, are squirming with embarassment.


james said...

I'd find this post much more credible if the Lib-Dems locally had opposed the council tax freeze - and if the Lib-Dems nationally were speaking out against ordinary people paying the price for the bankers' crisis.

Mike Barker said...

Wait and see, James. Wait and see. Neither the Cabinet nor Council Meetings to consider this have yet taken place.

james said...

So is that your way of saying that the Lib-Dems will be arguing for a council tax rise?

Mike Barker said...

See my comment above, you rascal.

james said...


Anonymous said...

An initial reaction is to say, "Families, schools, etc ought to be doing this without the need of 5 people and £75 000"
But then reality kicks in. There are families who cannot give their children the full breath of what would be considered "normal" childhood development. There are schools and play groups where such expertise and resources are not available - and if resources were they may be underused in just one location. So this ervice not only needs to be maintained but expanded. I feel sure there are many ex-teachers and grandparents who would like to be involved on a voluntary basis - but are put off by CRB checks.