(2) whether Kent county council is able to alter the funding arrangements for (a) existing and (b) future Sure Starts or family centres under the procedures for which his Department is responsible;
(3) whether the existing funding for Sure Start and family centre schemes in Kent is ring-fenced.
The Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare Grant (formerly the General Sure Start Grant) which my Department pays to all local authorities includes ringfenced revenue funding for Sure Start Local Programmes (SSLPs), including those that have since been designated as Sure Start Children's Centres. Kent county council, like all local authorities receiving this ringfenced funding, has freedom to determine the level of resource for each individual SSLP in its area from within its overall ring-fenced allocation for SSLPs to ensure the core children's centre services remain available to families in the area. My officials wrote to local authorities in August this year giving revenue allocations for children's centres and SSLPs for the next three financial years. The letter explained that the ringfenced funding must be used for
“services in SSLPs, and centres based on SSLPs, and cannot be used for new children's centres”.
I discussed funding levels for SSLPs with Kent county council and the hon. Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey in July in advance of these allocations being made.
The Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare Grant also includes separate funding for existing and new children's centres to be developed by 2010. Kent county council is responsible, like all local authorities, for allocating resources to those children's centres not based on SSLPs to enable them to deliver mainstream children's services to meet local needs. We issued guidance earlier this month to support local authorities in allocating resources effectively “Sure Start Children's Centres : Planning and Delivering Phase 3” which is available on the Sure Start website