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Announcement due over who will run Norfolk children's centres which were spared axe

One-year-old Esca Bootman at a County Hall protest against the closure of the children's centres. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

One-year-old Esca Bootman at a County Hall protest against the closure of the children's centres. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

The future of Norfolk children's centres spared the axe will become clear this month, when council bosses reveal who will be providing a new service.

Nick Stolls, secretary of the Local Dental Committee. Pic: Mercy Ships.Nick Stolls, secretary of the Local Dental Committee. Pic: Mercy Ships.

Norfolk County Council’s children’s services committee took the controversial decision to close 38 of the 53 children’s centres in January.

It will see the council move away from using centres to directly provide services, through a new Early Childhood and Family Service.

Fifteen centres will survive as bases, with the council promising a targeted service in the community, including in libraries, village halls and people’s homes.

The council had invited tenders from organisations to run the new service and that process has now been completed - although the identity of the provider or providers has yet to be announced.

Sara Tough, director of children services at Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk County Council.Sara Tough, director of children services at Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

A county council spokesman said: “This is a major procurement but we have completed the tender process and should be in a position to make an announcement later this month.

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“Once we have made that announcement, we will be able to communicate more fully with staff, families and others.”

The budget to commission the services has been cut from £10.2m to £5.2m, although the council insists it should be seen amid a bigger package of investment.

Sara Tough, director of children’s services, had said it was “not a proposal to close children’s centres to save money”, but would bring a better service.

But parents and opposition councillors were angry about the changes, with protests held, including in the streets of Great Yarmouth and at County Hall.

The Local Dental Committee also expressed its “dismay” at the closures.

Nick Stolls, secretary, said: “These centres were a place where the hard to reach families could be given information that they simply wouldn’t have accessed through their normal day to day activities and it will impact adversely in the casual oral health education that these centres have previously offered.”

The 38 children’s centres being axed will close their doors by October, although the council hopes voluntary groups will take them on to continue to offer services for young people.

Suffolk County Council is considering a similar service, which could see centres close.

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