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Last chance to have say over fate of Norfolk’s children’s centres, amid protests and anger

PUBLISHED: 09:42 12 November 2018 | UPDATED: 13:35 12 November 2018

Martha Smith-Cordiner, two, daughter of councillor Mike Smith-Clare, Labour lead for children and young people, protesting against the closure of Children's Centres. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Martha Smith-Cordiner, two, daughter of councillor Mike Smith-Clare, Labour lead for children and young people, protesting against the closure of Children's Centres. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

The consultation over controversial proposals which would see 46 of 53 children’s centres in Norfolk closed comes to an end today.

Families and children protesting against the closure of Children's Centres ready to march through Great Yarmouth. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYFamilies and children protesting against the closure of Children's Centres ready to march through Great Yarmouth. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Norfolk County Council announced in September that a review of the service could see 46 of the 53 children’s centres close their doors.

They said seven would remain open and serve as bases for staff doing outreach work. The council, which is cutting the budget for the services to £5m, says it would mean a better service, less reliant on buildings and reach more families.

However, the proposals met opposition from parents, protestors and parish councils, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn backing the fight and calling the proposals “disastrous.”

Protestors against the proposals marched through Great Yarmouth on Saturday. Mike Smith-Clare, Labour county councillor, said it showed what impact the centres had on people’s lives and how important it was to save them.

Meanwhile, Norwich City Council’s cabinet will agree its response to the consultation on Wednesday. The Labour-run council is expected to express its disappointment that their County Hall counterparts did not speak to City Hall before coming up with the proposals.

The council will say it does not support the proposals or closure of any Norwich children’s centre, given h”igh levels of deprivation and child poverty in the city”.

While recognising the strain on County Hall’s budgets, the city council will say the proposals came with a lack of evidence.

The council will say it wants to work with County Hall to develop a model for services in Norwich for early years support.

Karen Davis, Labour cabinet member for social inclusion, said: “It puts us and the other districts in a really difficult position, because we want to see the best provision possible.

“It’s frustrating the county did not speak to us before putting these proposals forward.”

Stuart Dark, chairman of the county council’s children’s services committee said last week: “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 county.”

Consultation, here, ends today.

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