Proposals would see 46 of Norfolk’s 53 children’s centres close
- Credit: Bill Smith - Archant
Forty-six of Norfolk's 53 children's centres could be closed after council bosses finally revealed proposals for a review of the service.
Just seven of the existing children's centres would remain as bases in each district of the county, but council bosses say it will bring services out of buildings and into the community.
In February, Norfolk County Council agreed that the budget for children's centres would be halved from £10m to £5m, with the contracts for the 12 current providers of the services coming to an end next year.
That decision proved controversial, with more than 5,500 people signing a petition against the decision to review the services.
Up to now, exactly what could happen has not been revealed, although there were suggestions that services could operate in shared community buildings, such as libraries.
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The council had maintained it would be 'premature' to speculate over whether any centres would close, although they had confirmed services would only focus on pre-school age children.
And the launch of consultation over proposals today revealed the potential scale of closures, although council bosses say it will mean more support can be provided to children and families most in need and reach people who currently do not use services.
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The council says schools, village halls, libraries and other buildings would be used to provide the services people currently get at children's centres.
The seven centres which would remain, as bases for outreach services, if the proposals go through are City and Eaton Children's Centre in Norwich, Drayton and Taverham Children's Centre, St Clement's Children's Centre in Terrington St Clement, Attleborough Children's Centre, Long Stratton Children's Centre, Seagulls Children's Centre in Great Yarmouth and Holt Children's Centres.
The 46 others would cease to operate as children's centres, but council bosses said they could yet still be used by other providers to run services for children and families.
Penny Carpenter, chairman of the children's services committee at County Hall, said: 'We want to get the right help to children and families as early as possible and create services that are fit for today's families. 'By spending our money on frontline services, rather than buildings, we'll be able to provide more focused one-to-one and group support, with a more consistent service across the country.
'About a quarter of those families who live in areas of greatest need are not accessing children's centres services at the moment and we want to develop a service that gives them that gives them the support and help they need for their children.'
The council stresses, despite the budget specifically to run children's centres will be halved, it is just one element of a wider programme of transforming children's services which has seen millions of pounds of investment.
The impact on the staff who work in the children's centres is not yet clear, but officers gave a pledge that front-line services would be protected.
But the proposals have been criticised by opposition councillors.
Dr Ed Maxfield, Liberal Democrat spokesman for children's services said: 'I just can't see how the council can hope to deliver a really important service across the county at the same time as halving the budget.
'The whole point behind Children's Centre Services was to make it easy for families to access support. If a whole swathe of centres are closed and we switch to targeting based on demographic data some children are bound to miss out on help they need.
'We found out last week that councils around the country are cutting back on spending on programmes for those most in need and this is leading to more spending on emergency support. If we keep eroding core services we are only storing up problems further down the line.'
Mike Smith-Clare, Labour's spokesman for children's services, said: 'This is going to be a big concern for people, particularly the physical loss of these centres.
'It's a money saving proposal. It represents a reduction in total funding, which will mean a possible reduction in services.
'That's a huge concern for many of the vulnerable people who use these centres, for whom they are not merely a service, but a lifeline.'
Mr Smith-Clare said he was concerned about the impact on current centres which the uncertainty amongst staff, with the changes potentially coming in October next year, could have.
He said he feared some of them could look for new jobs now, reducing the current service in the meantime.
He said: 'I think they should look to keep the centres in place and extend the partnership working from them, rather than this knee jerk reaction for financial reasons.'
The consultation is at www.norfolk.gov.uk/childrenscentres and runs until November 9.
Which children's centres could close under the proposals?
CFM Children's Centre, Hunter Road, Norwich
Thorpe Hamlet and Heartsease Children's Centre, Wolfe Road, Norwich
East City and Framingham Earl Children's Centre, Duckett Close, Norwich
Earlham Early Years Centre, Motum Road, Norwich
Bowthorpe, West Earlham and Costessey Children's Centre, Humbleyard, Clover Hill, Norwich
North City Children's Centre, Angel Road Infant School, Angel Road, Norwich
Aylsham Children's Centre and Reepham Children's Centre, The Pavilion, Sir Williams Lane, Aylsham (two children's centres use the same building)
Hellesdon Children's Centre, Horsford Infant School, Holt Road, Horsford
Spixworth and Sprowston Children's Centre, Sprowston Infant School, Recreation Ground Road. Norwich
Hoveton and Broadland Children's Centre, Hoveton Youth and Community Centre, Stalham Road, Hoveton
Dussindale Children's Centre, Woodside Community Base, Witard Road, Norwich
Hunstanton Children's Centre, Avenue Road, Hunstanton
North Lynn, Gaywood Children's Centre, Walpole Road, King's Lynn
Vancouver Children's Centre, Fairstead Community Centre, Centre Point, King's Lynn
West Walton Children's Centre, Ashleigh Infant and Nursery School, School Road, Wisbech
Nar Children's Centre, St Michael's Family Centre, Saddlebow Road, King's Lynn
Downham Market Children's Centre, Snape Lane, Paradise Road, Downham Market
Methwold Children's Centre, Old School House, Brandon
Emneth Children's Centre, Hollycroft Road, Emneth
Watton Children's Centre, Westfield Infant and Nursery School, West Road, Thetford
Thetford Kingsway Children's Centre, Kingway, Thetford
Thetford Drake Children's Centre, Drake Primary School, Fairfields, Thetford
Dereham Central and Dereham South Children's Centre, London Road, East Dereham (two children's centres use the same building)
Litcham Children's Centre, Litcham Primary School, Weasenham Road, Litcham
Swaffham Children's Centre, White Cross Road, Swaffham
Diss Children's Centre, Diss Infant and Nursery School, Fitzwalter Road, Diss
Harleston Children's Centre, Harleston Primary School, School Lane, Harleston
Loddon Children's Centre, Loddon Library Annexe, Church Plain, Loddon
Wymondham Children's Centre, Ashleigh Infant and Nursery School, Sheffield Road, Wymondham
Hethersett Children's Centre, Hethersett Woodside Nursery and Infant School, Firs Road, Hethersett
Village Green Children's Centre, Moorlands Primary Academy, Moorland Way, Belton
Greenacre Children's Centre, Peggoty Road, Great Yarmouth
Gorleston and Hopton Children's Centre, Gorleston Library, Lowestoft Road, Gorleston
Great Yarmouth Children's Centre, The Priory Centre, Priory Plain, Great Yarmouth
Acle Marshes Children's Centre, Bridewell Lane, Acle
Caister Children's Centre, Caister Infant Nursery School and Children's Centre, Kingston Avenue, Caister-on-Sea
Trinity Children's Centre, Martham Primary and Nursery School, Black Street, Martham
Stalham and Sutton Children's Centre, Brumstead Road, Stalham
North Walsham Children's Centre, Manor Road, North Walsham
Mundesley Children's Centre, Trunch Road, Mundesley
Cromer Children's Centre, Mill Road, Cromer
Stibbard Children's Centre, Fulmodeston Road, Stibbard
Fakenham Children's Centre, Fakenham Gateway Sure Start, Fakenham Infant and Nursery School, Norwich Road, Fakenham
Wells Children's Centre, Polka Road, Wells-next-the-Sea
Have your say
A series of public drop in events have been planned where people can talk to council staff and have their say.
They all run from 10am to noon, from 2pm to 4pm and 6pm to 8pm
Millennium Library, Norwich - Thursday, October 11
Dereham Library - Monday, October 15
The Pavilion, Old Catton - Tuesday, October 16
Merchant's Place, Cromer - Tuesday, October 23
Gaywood Library, King's Lynn - Thursday, October 25
Wymondham Library - Monday, October 29
Great Yarmouth Borough Central Library - Wednesday, November 7