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Row over fate of Norfolk’s children’s centres intensifies after MP’s ‘playing politics’ tweet

Brandon Lewis. Photo: PA / Stefan Rousseau

Brandon Lewis. Photo: PA / Stefan Rousseau

PA Archive/PA Images

The row over controversial proposals to close Norfolk’s children’s centres has intensified after Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis accused campaigners of “playing politics”.

Labour county councillor Emma Corlett. Pic: Norfolk County Council.Labour county councillor Emma Corlett. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

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

The council, which is cutting the budget for the services to £5m says it would mean a better service, less reliant on buildings.

But, the proposals have sparked a series of demonstrations across the county. And last week, the police were called to a meeting of Great Yarmouth Borough Council where the issue was being discussed.

When a few of the protesters – who had attended to support a Labour motion around children’s centres – refused to leave the council chamber, the meeting was adjourned and police called.

And Mr Lewis tweeted: “We saw the shouty reality of Corbyn’s Labour Party in Great Yarmouth this week, shipping people in from Norwich to try and boost their noise. No real regard for welfare of local vulnerable people, just playing politics.”

But his tweet sparked angry responses, including from Labour county councillor Emma Corlett, who had gone from Norwich to attend the Yarmouth meeting.

She tweeted: “The public gallery was packed. I was there to support colleagues by live-tweeting the meeting so they could focus on debate. Neither of us uttered a single word. So get your facts straight.

“And we weren’t shipped in. I drove. We fitted in the front of my vehicle, back seats not even needed. That’s how many of us were there.”

Karen Davis, Norwich City Council’s cabinet member for social inclusion, said she had gone in that capacity.”

She tweeted: “I have visited centres, spoken with staff, collated data around digital exclusion, fuel poverty, income and education alongside social mobility stats. What have you done to help the parents in your constituency?”

Mr Lewis replied: “Standing up for them getting a better service against your political gaming where you avoid doing the right thing to ensure better services”.

Consultation over the future of the centres, at https://norfolk.citizenspace.com/consultation/childrenscentres-2, closes on Monday, November 12.

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