MEP calls for protests over children’s centre cuts in Suffolk

MEP Richard Howitt

MEP Richard Howitt - Credit: Andrew Partridge

A Euro MP has called on families to protest against the possible closure of children's centres across Suffolk.

Labour MEP Richard Howitt said that Government cutbacks were to blame for money-saving proposals by Suffolk County Council for nine children's centre buildings and services.

Consultation is currently under way on the future of children's centres in Felixstowe, Glemsford, Hadleigh, Haverhill, Ipswich, Lowestoft, Reydon and Southwold and Thurston.

A review and public consultation to assess proposals to close nine of the 47 centres – including the Roman Hill Children's Centre in Love Road, Lowestoft, and the Reydon and Southwold Children's Centre at The Firs in Reydon – is under way.

The council says changes could help save £2.9million in four years – 1.9pc of a £156m savings requirement over the same period.

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Mr Howitt said: 'The help and support these local children's centres offer parents and their young children in areas of greatest need cannot be overstated.

'The wide range of activities has been actively supported by Suffolk County Council so far, but due to Government cutbacks for local authorities there is currently a consultation on the future funding and structure of the children's centres.

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'I'm supporting parents in their demands that these centres continue to offer their excellent support for young families and do not face future cuts.'

The county council has already saved £1.25m from recurring under-spends in the service and by cutting waste.

It said the cost of running or maintaining some of the buildings was disproportionately high when compared to the number of people using them, but that none of the services currently provided will be lost if proposed changes go ahead, and will instead be delivered differently, from a nearby location or direct to families in their homes.

Gordon Jones, the council's head of children's services, said he was committed to exploring ways to better services, so that they bring greater benefit to users.

'This review and consultation has to take place, some centres are too small and offer limited services for families but require expensive maintenance and running costs,' he said.

'Also, staff already deliver a number of services to families in community venues and in their own homes, often providing more efficient support.

'The proposals look to retain services and make them more accessible to families, rid ourselves of buildings that no longer meet the needs of the communities they serve; deliver services alongside other like-minded services and make sure that staff are spending their time doing what it is they signed up to do – help improve the lives of Suffolk children and their families.

'I urge all those using these services to share their views and engage fully with us.'

Consultation responses must be received by the end of Thursday October 16. Any decisions will be made in December. Any changes will be made from April 2015.

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