Nearly 3,000 sign petition calling for Norfolk’s children’s centres to be protected from cuts

The budget for Norfolk's children's centres could be halved. Pic: Press Association.

The budget for Norfolk's children's centres could be halved. Pic: Press Association. - Credit: PA

Almost 3,000 people have signed a petition urging Norfolk County Council to scrap proposals to take £5m out of the budget for the county's children's centres.

Emma Corlett. Pic: Archant.

Emma Corlett. Pic: Archant. - Credit: Archant

Labour county councillor Emma Corlett set up the petition amid consultation over the future of funding for the 53 centres.

Norfolk County Council, which has a £125m funding gap, is consulting over millions of pounds of savings, including halving the budget for children's centres.

The council has come up with three proposals it is seeking people's views on:

• Reviewing how children's centre services are provided in the most appropriate way in each area and whether, in some areas, that should be changed.

That would include assessing if an area needs a dedicated children's centre or if it could share a building with another organisation.

• Focusing children's centres services on families who need them most.

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The council says families most in need of support would get a better service, but 'it might mean that parents/carers have to pay for some of the activities run by children's centres that are currently offered to all families for free, or that some services would have to stop'.

• Closer working between children's centre services and libraries.

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The council says: 'Because of the financial pressures we are facing we think that having these services located in their own buildings in communities across Norfolk is no longer sustainable.'

But Ms Corlett, who represents Town Close ward in Norwich at County Hall, said: 'My local children's centre was a life-saver when my daughter was a baby and toddler.

'It was motivation to leave the house, to keep some structure to the day and to be able to seek advice in a non-threatening environment.'

Council leader Cliff Jordan has said: 'The fact we are trying to amalgamate things should save money.

'It should mean as good a service, if not better.

'We know we are not going to get as much money and we are trying to get the best we can for people.'

The county council's consultation over the proposed savings runs until January 2, with the authority setting its budget the following month.

'Losing these would be a disaster'

These are some of the comments made by people who have signed the petition:

John Underwood: 'I was an infant teacher for 35 years and understand the need for early years activities. My own grandchildren attended Sure Start centres. They must be kept going.'

Samantha Hubbard: 'The Sure Start children's centre has been so helpful to me. Through pregnancy to now with my baby. Would be such a shame to lose that and for others to miss out.'

Alison Howard: 'Supporting parents in their parenting is one of the most important functions of state and community. Losing these would be a disaster.'

Debbie Wing: 'It has been an amazing team of people who have helped me while becoming a first time mum. I suffer from anxiety which got worse after she was born. Without the centre's help, advice, encouragement and classes I would have been a wreck.'

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