Bid to scrap controversial £5m budget cuts for Norfolk children’s centres fails

Children's centres are facing an uncertain future. Photo: Bill Smith

Children's centres are facing an uncertain future. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Bill Smith - Archant

Plans to halve spending on Norfolk's children's centres could still go ahead after a bid to scrap the controversial proposals failed.

Norfolk County Council, which needs to plug a £125m budget gap by 2022, is considering cutting £5m from the £10m budget to commission children's centres.

The Conservative-controlled council is keen to get services to share buildings, which could see children's centres and libraries under one roof.

But Labour put forward a motion at today's full council meeting at County Hall for the proposal to be pulled and for children's centres to be protected.

Labour had started a petition urging people to back the centres and that was handed in today, with some 6,000 signatures.

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And Emma Corlett, who represents Norwich's Town Close ward, urged councillors to scrap the proposal, which she described as 'reckless', particularly with the rollout of universal credit pending.

She said without the centres, early help for families would not happen, as they would not be identified.

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She added it proportionately discriminates against women, the main users of the 53 centres in Norfolk.

But Stuart Dark, vice chairman of the children's services committee, said the contract for commissioning the centres was coming to an end and dates back seven years.

He said: 'When people think how their lives have changed in seven years, the same is true of our county.

'We have different demands and improved officer understanding of what is needed - where and how and how to deliver the most help to those in need.'

Labour's Julie Brociek-Coulton, who represents the city's Sewell ward, said the centres were a lifeline for parents and grandparents.

Council leader Cliff Jordan said amalgamation could make the service bigger and better.

Bill Borrett, Conservative councillor for Elmham and Mattishall, said he did not doubt the sincerity of the proposed motion, but that it was not right to withdraw it during the consultation. He said if Labour have an alternative, they should propose it in their budget amendment.

But Labour leader Steve Morphew said, by that time, it would be too late.

However, the motion was defeated by 48 votes to 27, with two abstentions.

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