CHILDREN'S centres must undergo a management restructure and services will need be integrated to make the necessary £1.5million savings, according to Dudley's children's services chief.

Having decided against initial plans to close seven of its 20 centres in a bid to make savings, Dudley Council is looking to cluster the centres together and work with partners, including those in the mental health and voluntary sectors to maximise their usage.

Speaking at a meeting of the authority’s overview and scrutiny board yesterday (Monday), Councillor Tim Crumpton, cabinet member for children’s services, said the priority was to deliver a service that is "fit for purpose and sustainable for the future" using feedback submitted by more than 1,500 residents during the consultationperiod.

The plan is to put centres into five clusters, each with its own core staff group and budget allocation.

However the model would see the number of direct managers reduced as there would be one manager per cluster.

Referring to the consultation, cllr Crumpton said: "The public response was that they didn't want to lose managers but given the choice between delivering the service in clusters and keeping them open, the answer we got back was that they would understand if we reduced management.

"We will be letting managers know how this goes forward."

The hours the centres open could also be reduced but before any decision is made, each centre would be assessed to see how it is being used on a day-to-day basis.

It is hoped that when the centres are not being used, partner agencies could make use of the facilities.

Pauline Sharratt, interim director of children's services added: "We have listened closely to parents and taken into account what people said about us needing to work closely with our partners to further develop the children's centres."

Vice chairman, Councillor Dave Tyler, said he was "heartened" to see a commitment from councillors and partners to improve the service.

He added: "If our children's centres are to be successful, all partners have to have an equal say in what goes on. "

The committee approved the draft proposals for the new model but insisted that partners should be included in future discussions.

A final decision will be made by the council’s cabinet on February 12.