Norfolk’s parish councils urged to have say on future of children’s centres

PUBLISHED: 11:11 17 October 2018 | UPDATED: 11:15 17 October 2018

A protest at County Hall over the potential closure of children's centres. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

A protest at County Hall over the potential closure of children's centres. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY


Parish councils are being urged to join in the debate over proposals over Norfolk’s children’s centres, which could see 46 of the 53 centres closed.

James Wright, Liberal Democrat chairman of Norwich City Council's scrutiny committee. Pic: Stuart McPherson.James Wright, Liberal Democrat chairman of Norwich City Council's scrutiny committee. Pic: Stuart McPherson.

Consultation is under way over Norfolk County Council’s proposal to shut the bulk of the children’s centres, used by 23,000 families over the past year, as part of a review of the service.

Seven existing children’s centres would remain as bases, but the council envisages services being provided in the community, such as at libraries and community centres.

The council says money will be better used reaching more families that need support, rather than on managing buildings.

It has already agreed to halve the budget from £10m to £5m, as contracts for the 12 current providers of the services come to an end next year.

At a meeting this week, the opposition Liberal Democrats and Labour tried to get the consultation suspended, saying it was flawed and misleading, but the motion was lost by 43 votes to 23, with one abstention.

The consultation goes on until November 12 and parish councils have been urged to make sure they have their say, as the proposals could have an impact on them.

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at County Hall, has written to more than 500 parish councils. He said: “I have written to them encouraging them to respond to the consultation.”

One which already has done so is Swanton Morley Parish Council. The parish council agreed this month to object to the council’s proposals.

At a meeting of the children’s services committee this week, Liberal Democrat children’s services spokesman Dr Edward Maxfield urged the council to ‘lean in’ to engage with parish councils and community groups to ensure the new model, if it goes ahead, meets local need.

The council has said comments are welcome and Stuart Dark, chairman of the children’s services committee has stressed no decisions have been made yet.

The council is holding drop-in sessions as follows: Merchant’s Place, Cromer, on Tuesday, October 23, Gaywood Library, King’s Lynn on Thursday, October 26, Wymondham Library on Monday, October 29 and Great Yarmouth Borough Central Library on Wednesday, November 7.

Sessions are from 10am to noon, 2pm to 4pm and 6pm to 8pm.

City Hall opposition to closures

The potential closure of children’s centres is opposed by Norwich City Council.

City Hall’s scrutiny committee recently considered Norfolk County Council’s proposals and will soon be providing their formal response to the consultation.

But, in the meantime, scrutiny committee chairman - Liberal Democrat James Wright - has written to Stuart Dark, chairman of County Hall’s children’s services committee to reflect councillors’ concerns.

He said: “Norwich has higher levels of deprivation than the surrounding rural district councils. The proposals for the closure of children’s centres would mean that each district would have one children’s centre despite differing levels of deprivation or need.

“It is quite unacceptable that given the higher levels of deprivation in the city, residents will be disproportionately affected by the withdrawal of the service.”

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