Children's centres are changing in Calderdale.
The council’s Cabinet last night approved putting the running of children’s centres out to tender.
But the winning bidder will be told that they need to make savings in daycare services.
Councillors confirmed that no children’s centres would close, but the centres would have to adapt and daycare facilities at each may have to change to “minimise cost and maximise effectiveness and efficiency”.
It comes after the council re-looked at its daycare provision which, last year, caused controversy among Brighouse parents who feared closure or cost-cutting at Wellholme Nursery.
Cabinet members last night assessed four options and favoured a two-clustered approach.
Clr Megan Swift said: “Unfortunately we don’t live in an ideal world, there is not unlimited money to spend on what we want. Last year when there were threats to children’s centre daycare the Labour group said no children’s centres would close and we’ve managed to do that.”
Clr Anne Collins, assistant Cabinet member who chaired the early years commission report, said they were right to halt last year’s proposals for day care because what has come from it is more “positive”.
She said: “Not all children’s centres in Calderdale are run by the council ... about a third are managed by not for profit organisations and they will be eligible to bid for the tender along with other organisations to provide a more effective and efficient service as part of a larger bundle.
“Savings on the daycare will be phased over three years to help providers make the economies they have to.”
The authority hopes to save £443,000 from its £11.5m budget for running children’s centres, day care provision and family support services.
The options available to Cabinet to consider were: to commission all 21 centres through a competitive procurement process; run them in-house and take over children’s centres provided externally; a management buy-out for staff to run them; do nothing.
Councillors ruled out the last option, along with option two which council papers show would be costly.
Option three, the management buy-out, was ruled out due to “insufficient middle management capacity” to oversee it. The council feared a “fragmented service” which would be expensive due to the loss of economies of scale.
Option one would see staff currently employed in children’s centres transfer to new providers from next July.
The council’s contribution to day care facilities is expected to be reduced over time and the authority says a greater proportion of children’s centre daycare provision will be paid for by government funding such as tax credits and childcare vouchers.
Only disadvantaged families or the most vulnerable will benefit from council contributions.