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MP brands children's centre proposals a 'con'

PUBLISHED: 18:35 15 January 2019 | UPDATED: 12:22 16 January 2019

Families and children protesting against the closure of children's centres. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Families and children protesting against the closure of children's centres. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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Norwich South MP Clive Lewis has called Norfolk County Council proposals to provide services despite closing a number of children's centre a "con".

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis. Photo: PANorwich South MP Clive Lewis. Photo: PA

Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday afternoon, Labour’s Mr Lewis said: “Local Conservatives are trying to con us by stating that they can make such a cut and close most of our children’s centres but still provide a good service, and they justify the closures by saying that replacement services will get to the people who need them via outreach.”

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.

MORE: Parents welcome children’s centres rethink, but fresh fears raised

But on Monday the council announced updated proposals which would retain a further eight centres. That would see 15 kept and 38 would close.

However on Tuesday Mr Lewis said the proposals would still “hurt some of the most vulnerable people” in Norwich. He said: “The most recent consultation closed on November 12 and received over 1,500 responses. By 20 November, the council had announced outline specification for the new service and started the procurement process. I am forced to question how these responses could have been assessed within eight days, with the weight that they deserve.

“The answer is that they could not, and it is clear that the plans for the new service and procurement for its continuation started well before the consultation ended, ignoring the views of the many thousands of people that wrote in.”

MORE: Eight more children’s centres could be spared axe in Norfolk cuts rethink, but anger remains

Stuart Dark, Conservative chairman of the county council's children's services committee.  Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.Stuart Dark, Conservative chairman of the county council's children's services committee. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

Mr Lewis said he had heard from a number of constituents over the closures, including a mother who sought help with her mental health, another fleeing domestic violence, and another who had a learning disability and epilepsy.

A county council spokesman said: “We have not pre-empted any decision. It is standard practice to invite expressions of interest in a proposal, so that matters can progress to the detailed stage, once a decision is taken. The amended proposals we published on Monday show how we have responded to the consultation and these will be debated fully at committee next week, before a final decision is taken.”

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