Norfolk mum appeals for a rethink on centre closures

Sandy Lysaght and her daughter Ella
Image caption Sandy Lysaght and her daughter Ella

A mother has pleaded with councillors not to shut a Sure Start centre which helped her fight post-natal depression.

Sandy Lysaght said plans to shut most of Norfolk's children's centres would affect parents desperate for help.

Norfolk County Council plans to shut 38 of its 53 centres in a budget-balancing exercise due to be finalised on Monday.

Conservative council leader Andrew Proctor said "tough decisions" had to be made. "It is right for the future of Norfolk," he said.

Image caption Councillors will consider closing 38 of Norfolk's 53 children's centres

Speaking on the BBC Sunday Politics East programme, Ms Lysaght appealed to councillors to reconsider.

"Are you really thinking about the impact this would have on the community?" she asked.

A mother of four children, Miss Lysaght said she suffered from post-natal depression after the birth of her two-year-old daughter Ella.

"There were times where I thought 'I'm not confident as a mum, am I doing this right? I need help,'" she admitted.

She said the Sure Start Centre in Caister provided the support she needed and helped with speech difficulties for one of her children.

The centres also helped single fathers and provided back-to-work support for parents.

"This is so important - it means a lot to me and other families," she added.

Image caption Andrew Proctor

Norfolk's full council meeting will vote on whether to increase council tax by 2.99% - an annual increase of £39.51 for a Band D home.

Even if the increase is approved, the council will still face a £70m budget shortfall over the next two years.

The council has said that money saved on children's centres would be spent on developing outreach services across the county.

Mr Proctor said difficult decisions had to be made.

"But we have to make those hard decisions sometimes when we are looking at the future of Norfolk and the future of everybody in Norfolk," he said.

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