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Bids to suspend consultation over closure of Norfolk’s children’s centres

PUBLISHED: 13:58 03 October 2018 | UPDATED: 14:28 03 October 2018

Mike Smith-Clare, Labour spokesman for children's service. Pic: Labour Party.

Mike Smith-Clare, Labour spokesman for children's service. Pic: Labour Party.

Labour Party

Another attempt is to be made to get the consultation over proposals which would see all but seven of Norfolk’s children’s centres suspended.

Ed Maxfield, Liberal Democrat spokesman for children's services. Pic: Liberal Democrats.Ed Maxfield, Liberal Democrat spokesman for children's services. Pic: Liberal Democrats.

Conservative-controlled Norfolk County Council is asking the public for views over a move which would see 46 of the 53 children’s centres shut.

Seven would remain as bases in each district of the county, with council bosses saying it will take services out of buildings and into the community.

The council says schools, village halls, libraries and other buildings would be used to provide the services people currently get at children’s centres, along visits to people’s homes and better online advice.

But the proposal, which would cut the budget for commissioning services from £10m to £5m, has been criticised by opposition councillors and by people who use the centres.

At a meeting last month, Liberal Democrat group leader Dan Roper sought permission to table a motion that the council’s policy and resources committee should vote on whether to suspend the consultation, which he described as “shameful”.

Council leader Andrew Proctor was not prepared to accept the motion and a joint request by Labour and the Lib Dems to get a special meeting of the children’s services committee to discuss the issue was denied.

But Labour and the Lib Dems will make fresh attempts at a full council meeting later this month.

Mike Smith-Clare, Labour’s spokesman for children’s services, has tabled a motion to full council that the consultation should be put on hold.

Labour say the decision to go out for consultation never went to the children’s services committee for agreement and argue that the consultation documents are not clear enough to the public.

They are also questioning the figures around the savings. They say the annual premises costs for the centres is just over £1m, so question where the rest of the £4m saving will come from.

Ed Maxfield, the Lib Dem children’s services spokesman has also put forward a motion to suspend the consultation until it is rewritten.

The council says the changes would mean more support could be provided to children and families most in need and reach people who currently do not receive services.

The council commissions 12 organisations to run centres and contracts are coming to an end.

The consultation, at www.norfolk.gov.uk/childrenscentres, runs until November 9.

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