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Protest over proposals to close 46 of Norfolk’s 53 children’s centres amid consultation suspension calls

PUBLISHED: 09:32 15 October 2018 | UPDATED: 09:38 15 October 2018

A protest at County Hall over the potential closure of children's centres. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

A protest at County Hall over the potential closure of children's centres. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

Parents who have used Norfolk’s under-threat children’s centres joined a protest at County Hall against potential closures today (Monday).

Consultation is under way over the council’s proposals to shut 46 of Norfolk’s 53 children’s centres, which were used by 23,000 families over the past year, as part of a review of the service.

The council has agreed to halve the budget from £10m to £5m, as contracts for the 12 current providers of the services come to an end next year.

The Liberal Democrats and Labour have both tabled motions for this morning’s full council meeting calling for the consultation to be suspended.

Parents of children who use the centres joined a Labour-organised lobby outside County Hall ahead of the meeting where the motions will be discussed.

Mike Smith-Clare, Labour’s spokesman for children’s services, has tabled a motion to full council that the consultation should be put on hold.

Labour say the decision to go out for consultation never went to the children’s services committee for agreement and argue that the consultation documents are not clear enough to the public.

They are also questioning the figures around the savings.

Ed Maxfield, the Lib Dem children’s services spokesman, has also put forward a motion to suspend the consultation until it is rewritten.

MORE: ‘They got me back on my feet’ - father who lost partner on the value of children’s centres amid closure consultation

But the council says the changes would enable the council to reach more of the people who need help most, in the community, rather than in specific buildings.

Stuart Dark, acting chairman of the children’s services committee, said: ‘Children’s centre contracts are now seven years old with 12 different providers.

“Much has changed in that time including where Norfolk’s families live, the demands placed on them and how they wish to access services.

“It is a concerning fact that just under 25pc of families in our most disadvantaged areas do not currently access children’s centres and we want to make sure that there is more for those most in need.

“We believe we can better support Norfolk’s families by focusing on delivering services in local communities and providing online help, rather than spending our money on running and maintaining buildings.”

The consultation, which runs until November 12, can be found here.

The council is holding a number of drop-in events about their proposals, as follows:

Dereham Library, Dereham – Monday, October 15, 10am to noon, 2pm to 4pm, 6pm to 8pm.

The Pavilion, Old Catton – Tuesday,October 16, 10am to noon, 2pm to 4pm, 6pm to 8pm.

Merchant’s Place, Cromer – Tuesday, October 23, 10am to noon, 2pm to 4pm, 6pm to 8pm.

Gaywood Library, King’s Lynn – Thursday, October 25, 10am to noon, 2pm to 4pm, 6pm to 8pm.

Wymondham Library, Wymondham – Monday, October 29, 10am to noon, 2pm to 4pm, 6pm to 8pm.

Great Yarmouth Borough Central Library, Great Yarmouth, Wednesday, November 7, 10am to noon, 2pm to 4pm, 6pm to 8pm.

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