Suffolk

Suffolk children's centres: Two sites 'saved' in county council closures plan

Caterpillar Centre Image copyright Google
Image caption Ten children's centres in Suffolk, including the Caterpillar Centre in Woodbridge, would close or become a nurseries

Two children's centres have been "saved" under revised council plans to scrap sites that support families with advice and parenting sessions.

Two of Suffolk's remaining 38 centres would close completely with eight repurposed to provide nursery care.

The remaining 28 centres would become family hubs, though 11 will be part-time under plans to be discussed by the Tory-run county council next week.

Opposition parties said changes should not be made "during a global pandemic".

The council now plans to keep Foley Children's Centre in Newmarket open full-time instead of part-time and Village Rise centre in Lowestoft open part-time, instead of it becoming a nursery.

Image caption Protests were mounted as nine of the original 47 children's centres were closed in 2015 during a previous round of cuts

Labour councillor Jack Abbott was "pleased we have managed to save" two centres.

But he added: "These plans will hollow out children's centre provision and weaken family services. That the Tories are trying to push this through during a global pandemic is really beyond the pale."

Penny Otton, Liberal Democrat, said: "Any closures would be so harmful to families, especially in light of coronavirus which has left many more extremely vulnerable and in need of support."

'More money'

The Conservatives said the council needed to provide an expanded hub system, which would offer similar services to children's centres as well support for youth groups, work for excluded pupils, and mental health access for under-19s.

The changes would save about £435,000, which the authority said would pay for 12 new outreach workers, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

The Caterpillar Centre in Woodbridge and the Chatterbox Centre in north Ipswich will be closed as part of the plan.

More than 940 people responded in a public consultation to the set of proposals published in January, and the council said 41.1% supporting that plan and 34.5% opposed it.

Mary Evans, cabinet member for children's services, said the proposal put "more money into providing the staff and services that families and young people really need".

The plans will be considered by cabinet on 14 July.

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