CC&G urges O’Dowd to rescind cuts

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Councillors have recommended that Causeway Coast and Glens call on Education Minister John O’Dowd to rescind his decision to cut £2m from the Early Years Fund.

Members of the Corporate Policy and Resources Committee supported a motion brought forward by PUP councillor Russell Watton.

The motion said that “this disastrous loss of services in the most disadvantaged parts of Northern Ireland cannot be justified and should be rectified immediately.”

He said that if the proposals go ahead, up to 153 playgroups, day care facilities and services for youngsters with disabilities may have to close with the potential loss of 177 jobs.

It could also mean the loss of 2,500 pre-school places - including 600 for children with special needs and 250 for those who do not have English as their first language.

An estimated 1,800 single parents who depend on the services in their local communities could lose their support. The changes are due to take effect from August 31.

Cllr Watton said he couldn’t believe that £2m could not be found in the Executive budget to support Early Years education.

The PUP man said he “didn’t give a hoot” that it was a Sinn Fein Minister who had proposed the cuts.

“It’s not a matter of who is the Minister, it’s the disastrous effect it will have on housing estates”

Sinn Fein’s Philip McGuigan proposed an amendment that Council urge the Excutive parties to support Mr O’Dowd on accessing additional funds for Early Years provision.

Later in the debate councillor McGuigan took a swipe at the UUP for supporting £1.5 billion in budget cuts and also the DUP for pandering to the British Government who had consistently put a financial “noose around our necks”.

He said he had complaints from constituents about no funding being available to replace street lighting - another symptom of the draconian budget cuts.

Deputy Mayor, Cllr Darryl Wilson, said: “It does not seem to make any sense at all. We need to get our priorities straight that people will not stand for it.”

TUV councillor Sharon McKillop said she had received many complaints from parents about the difficulty in obtaining nursery places. She described the proposed cuts as scandalous.

Cllr McGuigan’s amendment lost by eight votes to three while Cllr Watton’s Notice of Motion went through 11 to 3.