Takeover Of Kingston And Richmond Children’s Services Set For April

Children's services in Kingston and Richmond are changingThe children’s services departments for Kingston and Richmond will be brought together and privatised in under two months’ time.

Achieving For Children is a community interest company due to start operation on April 1 which means any profit can only go towards services and the way children’s services are run will be overhauled.

At a committee meeting on February 6, Councillor Julie Pickering said: “We are sitting here six weeks before this goes live – I wish it was six months.

“I broadly support what we are trying to do but to tie the detail up in the last few weeks puts burden on everyone and that is when mistakes happen.”

However, Nick Whitfield, Joint Director of Children’s Services, insisted that it will be more efficient when the two councils work together.

He was also frank about the likelihood of severe budget cuts, despite meeting the government's expectation that councils should work together to reduce costs.

While criticising the coalition government, Mr Whitfield said: “Most people still have their heads buried in the sand about how Draconian the cuts are going to be. It is still very serious. I think we are only at the beginning of these discussions across the country.”

This spurred concerns for Ms Pickering over the future of Dickerage Sports and Community Centre on Dickerage Lane, New Malden, which is aimed at both adults and children.

In a sentiment that echoed across the board, David Ryder-Mills, lead councillor for schools and continuing education, said: “The public do not care who runs Dickerage – what is important is Dickerage is running well and is successful.”

This accountability issue also came up amidst questions over the council’s engagement with the public, and jokes about whether people would assume AFC is a football team.

To conclude the meeting, Mr Whitfield said: “Can I just thank the councillors for the work we have done together and for not making it into political football.”

Image courtesy of REX / Glenn Copus / Associated Newspaper

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