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Parents to learn fate of Norfolk’s closure-threatened children’s centres

PUBLISHED: 12:12 10 January 2019 | UPDATED: 09:25 11 January 2019

Parents voicing their concerns to Jeremy Corbyn during his visit to North City Children's Centre. 
Picture: Neil Didsbury

Parents voicing their concerns to Jeremy Corbyn during his visit to North City Children's Centre. Picture: Neil Didsbury

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Parents and campaigners will soon find out if councillors are likely to push ahead with proposals to close all but seven of Norfolk’s children’s centres.

Jon and Clare Watson, with sons Callum and Aiden. Picture: Janet WatsonJon and Clare Watson, with sons Callum and Aiden. Picture: Janet Watson

Conservative-controlled Norfolk County Council revealed proposals in September to shut 46 of the 53 children’s centres, with the seven which would remain acting as bases for outreach support.

Council bosses said it would bring services out of buildings and into the community.

But there has been vociferous opposition from parents and politicians, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn backing campaigners when he visited Norwich’s North City Children’s Centre in Angel Road.

The council had said schools, village halls, libraries and other buildings would be used to provide the services people currently get at children’s centres.

In February last year, Norfolk County Council agreed that the budget for children’s centres would be halved from £10m to £5m, coinciding with the contracts for the 12 current providers of the services coming to an end.

More than 1,600 people responded to the council’s consultation over the proposals, with the changes labelled as “short-sighted” and “reckless”.

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.

The council’s children’s services committee is due to discuss the proposals when it meets on Tuesday January 22.

The agenda for that meeting will go public on next week, when it will become clear whether the council has had any second thoughts over the proposals.

The council has indicated that there has been an update, following the recent consultation.

Jon Watson, whose sons Callum and Aiden have used the centre at Humbleyard, in Clover Hill, urged councillors to rethink.

Mr Watson, who lives in Bowthorpe, said: “They are a lifeline to people. People rely on those centres to get the help they need.”

A county council spokesman said: “Our latest proposals for an early childhood and family service, which have been updated following our recent consultation process, will be published next week, before they are considered by the children’s services committee on January 22.”

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