Cutting £5m from budget for Norfolk children’s centres is ‘too high risk’ say critics
- Credit: � ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC
Controversial cuts which would slash £5m from what Norfolk County Council spends on children's centres will go forward for further talks, despite criticism the move is 'too high risk'.
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.
At a meeting of the council's children's services committee today, councillors agreed to take the proposal - part of a package of £10.5m savings in the department over the next three years - forward.
But Labour councillor Emma Corlett, who voted against taking the proposal forward into budget planning, said: 'I think it is too high risk, this saving.
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'If you have two struggling services which are underfunded, then if you put them together, surely they will still be underfunded.'
The council has not provided a list of which children's centres could close. Liberal Democrat Eric Seward said, given officers had come up with a £5m savings figure, then they must know where that might happen.
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Officers said the council had yet to talk to the providers they commission children's centres from, so full details would not be provided yet - but would be as the budget process continues.
And Conservative Alison Thomas said, if that £5m saving was removed, £5m of savings would need to be found elsewhere.
The council is pumping £12m into the department to help reduce the number of looked after children.
Interim children's services director Matt Dunkley said changes would see more focus on intervention with families, to keep children out of care.
Speaking after the meeting, Dave Lambert, from Unison, said: 'Unison are very disappointed with the proposal to cut the children's centre budget, bearing in mind significant cuts already have left some to work with minimal staffing.'
He said the centres had a vital role in early help and prevention, so it did not make sense to cut funding at a time when the council says that is something they want to invest in.