Somerset County Council has drawn up plans to shut most of the Children’s Centres that provide support to families with young children.
A public consultation exercise has begun. But behind the scenes, officials are already talking about closing all but 14 of the 41 county-run centres.
The scale of the proposed cuts by the County Council has been revealed by West Somerset Labour Party. Branch Secretary Andy Lewis said:
“The county council has begun one of its ‘public-but-secret’ consultation exercises. On the website, the council is asking for views. But little or no publicity has been given to this. The questions asked in the consultation are loaded – and the reality is that minds in County Hall have already been made up.
“I understand that the preferred plan is to close 27 of the 41 county-supported Children’s Centres. Voluntary organisations have been told this – with the suggestion that they can pick up the slack. But voluntary groups live a hand-to-mouth existence , in part because of uncertainties about funding from local authorities.
“As the county council website says: ‘Children’s Centres are at the heart of the strategy to deliver better outcomes for young children and their families.’ Yet now, this strategy is seemingly being abandoned. These cuts come at a time when planners have warned of a boom in the number of young children, that will cause childcare services to be overstretched.
“West Somerset has four Children’s Centres – in Alcombe, Dulverton, Watchet and Williton. Under such a drastic scheme of cuts, at least two of them would have to close.”
[The consultation on Children’s Centres opened on September 2nd and runs until October 28th. http://www.somersetconsults.org.uk/consult.ti ]
West Somerset Labour Party