COUNCIL bosses have said they will create more than 500 new childcare places in Darlington by next year.

The town has been set a target in its SureStart plan of providing an extra 503 places in full-day care, out-of-school clubs, holiday clubs and childminder places.

Sure Start is a Government programme, which attempts to give children the best start in life by bringing together education, childcare, health and family support under one roof.

New figures produced yesterday by Darlington Borough Council show that between April last year and March this year, 468 places have been created.

They consist of 70 out-of-school club places, 120 private nursery places, 50 holiday club places and 228 childminder places.

The council said work was on-going to create another 50 full-day care places by next March.

The council also said its efforts were helping towards a national objective of eradicating child poverty and ensuring a better start in life.

As part of that work, 145 neighbourhood nursery places were created in the most disadvantaged wards in Darlington.

The nurseries at McNay Street and Maidendale House, on the Firthmoor estate, are now in new buildings, while the Skerne Park nursery is awaiting the completion of premises at the estate's primary school.

By spring next year, the three sites will be fully designated children's centres.

They will provide child and family health services, family support, adult learning and links to Job Centre Plus.

Services are also being developed on the Red Hall estate and in the Bank Top and Lascelles areas.

A council spokeswoman said: "Developments, such as the new children's centres, will help parents get the support they need to help their children in the important early years."

At a meeting of the council's cabinet next Tuesday, councillors will be asked to approve plans for a consultation exercise with families in Darlington, which will look at childcare provision and education for youngsters up to the age of 14.