Labour is urging people across Somerset to take part in a county council consultation about the future of children’s centres. But it’s warning those who respond to be careful – as the consultation seems designed to win support for the Conservative council’s preferred option.
Somerset County Council (SCC) wants to downgrade most of the children’s centres in the county, reducing the number of designated Sure Start centres from 24 to just eight. That would be a huge cut from the 41 centres set up under the Labour government in 2005.
The leader of the Labour group on SCC, Leigh Redman, said: “Any closure of a children’s centre is a bad thing. I urge people to take part in this consultation.”
West Somerset Labour secretary Kathrine See raised concern about the way the questions in the consultation were framed. She said:
“This is not a proper consultation. It is full of leading questions steering people who respond towards a particular answer. They are directing people towards the answers they want, to try to get evidence of support for what they have already decided to do.”
She will be taking her concerns to a SCC scrutiny meeting.
The drop-in sessions at five centres over the coming weeks are being run by a private company and there are fears that the results will be skewed towards what SCC wants to hear. Kathrine is telling West Somerset Labour members: “If you attend a public consultation session, please make sure that your responses are recorded.”
Better to Invest
The Conservative-led county council argues that it’s better to invest in people than buildings. But Wellington Labour county councillor Andy Govier said: “I am disappointed that the successful work patterns that have had such a positive impact in the last few years are under threat. My concern is that without a suitable building for professionals to work together in, the level of service to families could deteriorate.”
The SCC plan would mean West Somerset and South Somerset would have just one children’s centre each. The other districts would have two centres. . More details and the online consultation form are here:
The drop-in sessions are from 10.30 am to 6.30 pm. The dates are:
Wednesday 11 October – The Hub, Minehead
Friday 13 October – Hillside Children’s Centre, Taunton
Tuesday 31 October – Victoria Park Community Centre, Bridgwater
Thursday 2 November – Vicarage Street Methodist Church, Yeovil
Thursday 16 November – Glastonbury Library Hub, Orchard Court