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15.01.19

Norfolk council proposes closing 38 children centres in updated proposal following backlash

Around 70% of children’s centres in Norfolk are set to close despite major opposition to the closures, with Norfolk County Council now proposing to shut eight less centres than originally planned.

Norfolk County Council has stated it has “listened and updated its proposal” to shut 46 out of 53 children’s centres and is now planning on closing 38 centres which offer a variety of children’s classes, health checks and free parenting courses.

The Conservative-run authority said it needed to save £5m from its children’s budget in order to balance its books and it launched its new plans last September, saying its existing contracts were seven years old and outdated.

Demonstrators and parents have launched protests outside the council’s city hall in Norwich to protest against the mass closure. At a council meeting in Great Yarmouth, the police were called after protesters refused to leave the public gallery.

Despite the fierce opposition, Norfolk County Council has gone forward with the plans, but has updated the proposals to create a “new, targeted and effective early childhood and family service.”

The council said 1,600 people responded to its consultation into the original proposals and nearly 1,000 signed a petition against the plans.

Councillor Stuart Dark, chairman of the 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. This is part of our wider, £65m work with children aged 0-5.

“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.”

The county council’s updated proposals will see 15 bases, two per district, which will offer outreach services in people’s homes and community venues across the county – the original plan was for seven bases.

The authority claims that this approach will be more targeted and cost-effective with the amount spent on frontline services rising to 60p per £1.

Labour councillor Mike Smith-Clare said: “I don't feel the council has listened. I feel it's been an absolute kick in the teeth. It's disgraceful. The long-term effect, it's going to destroy people's lives.”

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