Eight more children's centres could be spared axe in Norfolk cuts rethink, but anger remains
PUBLISHED: 08:15 15 January 2019 | UPDATED: 15:19 15 January 2019
Eight more children's centres in Norfolk could be spared the axe, after a rethink by council leaders, but opposition councillors say there remains a risk children will miss out on crucial support.
In September, Norfolk County Council unveiled proposals which would have seen 46 of the 53 children’s centres in the county closed.
Seven of the existing children’s centres would have remained as bases in each district of the county, with council bosses saying it would bring services out of buildings and into the community.
But today, the council announced updated proposals which would retain a further eight centres. That would see 15 kept and 38 would close.
Council leaders and bosses stress it is just one element of a wider £65m programme of transforming children’s services which has seen millions of pounds of investment - and people need to look beyond the buildings.
The proposals had been criticised by parents and by oppostion councillors. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn backed campaigners when he visited Norwich’s North City Children’s Centre in Angel Road and there have been protests, petitions and marches against the proposals.
More than 1,600 people responded to the council’s consultation over the proposals, with the changes labelled as “short-sighted” and “reckless” by some.
Council bosses said they have listened to the criticisms and are now proposing their revised services includes 15 bases - two in each district and three in Norwich. They provide outreach services in people’s homes and community venues.
And they say they are confident those 38 which would close as children’s centres would remain open to provide services for childnen and families, with other groups and organisations providing services.
Stuart Dark, chairman of the council’s children’s services committee, said: “We have listened and have updated our proposals.
“I believe we can provide effective, targeted support to children and families, through outreach support in people’s homes and venues across the county, plus 15 early childhood and family bases in the areas of highest need.
“It’s clear people also value sessions that any family can access, so we’re proposing to provide those at our bases and all our libraries.
“We’re confident the majority of the current designated children’s centres will continue to be used by groups, to run services for children and families. We plan to support this with a £500,000 grant fund.
“This new approach will be more targeted and cost-effective – the amount spent on frontline services should rise to 60p per £1.”
The original proposal had been to retain Attleborough, Holt and Terrington St Clement, but those three are now not proposed to be retained, although Attleborough will operate as a “multi-function hub”.
It followed a council decision in February for the budget for children’s centres to be halved from £10.2m to £5.2m with the contracts with the 12 current providers of the service coming to an end this year.
Mike Smith-Clare, Labour spokesman for children’s services, said: “We feel this is an absolute disgrace. It’s been a stitch-up from the very start.
“People have detailed the impact this is going to have on their lives and they still have not listened. We will continue to fight this.
“These centres should not be bases, being used to rely on voluntary and community organisations. That’s not a strategy. It’s got more holes than Swiss cheese.”
And Ed Maxfield, Liberal Democrat member of the children’s services, said: “The county council’s own analysis shows the value of this service and I am worried that this cut will be a false economy.
“There is a real risk that more of Norfolk’s children will not have the support they need to reach their full potential.”
He said the current children’s centres budget allocates just over £4m for frontline delivery costs, which will reduce to £3.3m under the new model. The family support fund will be reduced from just over £470,000 to £250,000
The proposals will be discussed when the council’s children’s services committee meets on Tuesday, January 22.
The 15 centres which could be retained
Swaffham Children’s Centre, White Cross Road, Swaffham
Thetford Kingsway Children’s Centre, Kingsway, Thetford
Acle Marshes Children’s Centre, Bridewell Lane, Acle
Drayton and Taverham Children’s Centre
Great Yarmouth Children’s Centre, The Priory Centre, Priory Plain, Great Yarmouth
Seagulls Children’s Centre, Great Yarmouth
Downham Market Children’s Centre, Snape Lane, Paradise Road, Downham Market
Nar Children’s Centre, Saddlebow Road, South Lynn, King’s Lynn
Fakenham Gateway Children’s Centre, Norwich Road, Fakenham
North Walsham Children’s Centre, Manor Road, North Walsham
Catton Grove, Fiddlewood and Mile Cross Children’s Centre, Hunter Road, Norwich
City and Eaton Children’s Centre, Norwich
Earlham Children’s Centre, Norwich
Diss Children’s Centre, Diss Infant and Nursery School, Fitzwalter Road, Diss
Long Stratton Children’s Centre
The 38 which would still cease to be children’s centres
Thorpe Hamlet and Heartsease Children’s Centre, Wolfe Road, Norwich
East City and Framingham Earl Children’s Centre, Duckett Close, Norwich
Earlham Early Years Centre, Motum Road, Norwich
Bowthorpe, West Earlham and Costessey Children’s Centre, Humbleyard, Clover Hill, Norwich
North City Children’s Centre, Angel Road Infant School, Angel Road, Norwich
Aylsham Children’s Centre and Reepham Children’s Centre, The Pavilion, Sir Williams Lane, Aylsham (two children’s centres use the same building)
Attleborough Children’s Centre, Church Street, Attleborough
Hellesdon Children’s Centre, Horsford Infant School, Holt Road, Horsford
Spixworth and Sprowston Children’s Centre, Sprowston Infant School, Recreation Ground Road. Norwich
Hoveton and Broadland Children’s Centre, Hoveton Youth and Community Centre, Stalham Road, Hoveton
Dussindale Children’s Centre, Woodside Community Base, Witard Road, Norwich
Hunstanton Children’s Centre, Avenue Road, Hunstanton
North Lynn, Gaywood Children’s Centre, Walpole Road, King’s Lynn
Vancouver Children’s Centre, Fairstead Community Centre, Centre Point, King’s Lynn
West Walton Children’s Centre, Ashleigh Infant and Nursery School, School Road, Wisbech
Methwold Children’s Centre, Old School House, Brandon
Emneth Children’s Centre, Hollycroft Road, Emneth
Watton Children’s Centre, Westfield Infant and Nursery School, West Road, Thetford
Thetford Drake Children’s Centre, Drake Primary School, Fairfields, Thetford
St Clement’s Children’s Centre, Churchgate Way, Terrington St Clement
Dereham Central and Dereham South Children’s Centre, London Road, East Dereham (two children’s centres use the same building)
Litcham Children’s Centre, Litcham Primary School, Weasenham Road, Litcham
Harleston Children’s Centre, Harleston Primary School, School Lane, Harleston
Loddon Children’s Centre, Loddon Library Annexe, Church Plain, Loddon
Wymondham Children’s Centre, Ashleigh Infant and Nursery School, Sheffield Road, Wymondham
Hethersett Children’s Centre, Hethersett Woodside Nursery and Infant School, Firs Road, Hethersett
Village Green Children’s Centre, Moorlands Primary Academy, Moorland Way, Belton
Greenacre Children’s Centre, Peggoty Road, Great Yarmouth
Gorleston and Hopton Children’s Centre, Gorleston Library, Lowestoft Road, Gorleston
Caister Children’s Centre, Caister Infant Nursery School and Children’s Centre, Kingston Avenue, Caister-on-Sea
Trinity Children’s Centre, Martham Primary and Nursery School, Black Street, Martham
Stalham and Sutton Children’s Centre, Brumstead Road, Stalham
Mundesley Children’s Centre, Trunch Road, Mundesley
Cromer Children’s Centre, Mill Road, Cromer
Stibbard Children’s Centre, Fulmodeston Road, Stibbard
Wells Children’s Centre, Polka Road, Wells-next-the-Sea
Holt, Wells and Stibbard Children’s Centre, Charles Road, Holt
‘They haven’t really listened’ - father’s anger over children’s centres shake-up
A father, whose family has relied on a children’s centre, said he is disappointed that, despite concessions, council bosses want to go ahead with changes.
Bowthorpe dad Jon Watson, whose sons Callum and Aiden have used the centre at Humbleyard, in Clover Hill, had urged councillors to rethink.
While the revised proposals mean two extra centres will remain in Norwich - the ones at Earlham and at Catton Grove, Fiddlewood and Mile Cross - the one in Bowthorpe remains at risk of closure.
He said: “The fact is that 68pc of people said they were opposed to the proposals and they are still going ahead with them, so they haven’t really listened.
“They say Bowthorpe has poor accessibility to the city, but its right next to a bus stop and they say go to services at Earlham, but most of the services are here.
“We’ll keep fighting. I’m going to look to see if there are any legal options which we could pursue.”