CHILDREN’S centres are set to be run by schools and voluntary organisations as the council looks to “empower communities” in a bid to tackle deprivation.

A total of five children’s centres are up for grabs as the first stage of the community asset transfer process gets underway.

This comes after the council agreed to allow a Jewish charity to take over Sedgley Children’s Centre in Prestwich earlier this year.

Local authority chiefs have hailed the “brave” proposal as an opportunity to improve outcomes for children across the borough.

But some have raised concerns about the move, saying that it smacks of “abdicating responsibility”.

Cllr Tamoor Tariq, cabinet member for children and families, told a scrutiny committee why the council is taking the new approach.

He said: “What we want to do is, not to take away the services in children’s centres, but to improve and build up from them. Making sure it’s more targeted and that it’s more relevant to the children’s needs, working with potential partners to see if there are things we need to address.”

Cllr Tariq stressed that the external organisations which the council has in mind are not private firms.

He pointed to the fact that many of the children’s centres are located on or nearby school sites and he revealed that many schools have already informally expressed an interest in managing the centres.

This includes centres which operate from Broad Oak High School and Butterstile, Radcliffe Hall CE Methodist and Woodbank primary schools as well as one in Coronation Road in Radcliffe.

But centres in Redvales and Whitefield are not part of the plan because of their size, according to Cllr Tariq.

He told councillors that management committees would be put in place to help “rebuild” and “revitalise” children’s centres. The council would also have the power to withdraw the lease if necessary, he promised.

Cllr Bob Caserta, who called in the decision for further scrutiny, questioned its financial viability.

The move is expected to save the council £136,289 a year in management costs, but the it would still be responsible for maintenance.

Karen Dalton, executive director for children and young people, told the scrutiny committee that interested parties will have to demonstrate how they are going to meet the costs.

She said: “The primary purpose of doing this is not to save money – it just happens to save us some money. Because of changes in workforce we have made we are unable to deliver the services we need to in order to reduce deprivation.

“We know in Bury deprivation has gone up in the last five years. We’re trying to do something different. It’s about giving the community an opportunity to build something from the bottom up. It’s not going to be without risks or difficulties. But we can’t carry on doing what we are doing because we are failing our children and families.”

Groups will be formally invited to submit applications in January with full implementation expected by July.

The overview and scrutiny committee agreed to note the decision but will consider a more detailed proposal in March before agreements are signed.

Cllr Tariq added: “We have either got a situation of status quo or we take ultimately what is a brave decision in going through with a great idea, empowering communities.”