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Protesters gather as councillors meet to discuss mass children’s centre closures

Demonstrators and parents have gathered outside County Hall in Norwich to protest against planned mass children’s centre closures as Norfolk County Council meet to discuss the proposals.

The council is currently undergoing public consultation over plans to shut down 46 out of the council’s 53 centres when their contracts end in September 2019 in order to save money.

The remaining seven, one in each district in Norfolk, will serve as ‘hubs’ providing outreach services as back in February the council’s children’s centre budget for 2019 was cut from £10m to £5m.

The Labour party says the plans are flawed and have not been thought through properly, with the protesters outside the council offices including mothers and children who have used the services being cut.

Cllr Mike Smith-Clare from the Labour group said: "People are passionate about this, they don't want to see centres closed.

"They know cuts are going to affect, not just children but future communities... they are angry and they have every right to be."

The full council is meeting today to present and discuss the report from last month’s children’s services committee, and both the Liberal Democrats and Labour have tabled motions for the meeting calling for the consultation to be suspended.

The amendment up for debate says: “Council regrets the opening of consultations on the future of Children’s Centres before the proposals were agreed for consultation by the Children’s Services Committee,” as well as the refusal of the chair/vice chair of the committee to hold a special meeting to address this.

In July, the authority announced it was taking an extra year to deliver savings to be “more realistic,” with the council now planning to bridge a predicted £95m gap in three years instead of two.

Councils up and down the country are facing significant budget deficits, with Northamptonshire CC the mostly widely reported of these after becoming the first council to issue a section 114 notice in 20 years.

Surrey County Council were also recently engaged in a High Court battle over planned £21m cuts to services for disabled children.

Chairman of the children’s services committee Cllr Penny Carpenter said: “We want to get the right help to children and families as early as possible and create services that are fit for today’s families.

“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.

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Image credit - Labour Group at Norfolk County Council


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