Children's centres closure will create 'super centre hubs'

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Plans to close eight children’s centres in Peterborough will go ahead.

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Families in Peterborough have lost their campaign to save eight children's centres from closure

The cuts, which will save the council £1.2 million a year, will not be reversed, despite a bid by councillors opposed to the closures to call in the original decision made in favour of cuts earlier this month.

The decision to go ahead with closures was upheld by 26 councillors in the vote held at an extraordinary council meeting on Wednesday night, with 23 voting against and one abstaining.

The cuts will see the city’s 15 children’s centres reduced to four ‘super centre hubs’, with three outreach centres to support them.

The four hubs will be set up at Honeyhill in Paston, East children’s centre in Eastfield, First Steps in Welland and Orton’s in Orton Malborne.

Outreach services will be provided from the existing Bretton, Fulbridge and Gladstone children’s centres.

The remaining eight centres will be handed over to schools or childcare providers.

Following a public consultation assessing the impact of closing the centres held between November 2013 and last month, Peterborough city council will set aside £100,000 to support changes made to the services.

Ed Murphy was one of the three Peterborough councillors who made the call-in request during a meeting of the council’s creating opportunities and tackling inequalities scrutiny committee on Monday.

He said members of the public attending the extraordinary council meeting were ‘outraged and distressed’ when they heard the verdict.

‘We prepared an alternative financial strategy to keep centres open with universal access, but unfortunately that was not taken forward,’ Mr Murphy said.

‘We stand to lose eight centres, and the others won’t be able to cope. It could be critical for some children.  Giving a disabled child access to a sensory room could be the difference between that child communicating ever in its life or never. The decision will also be very costly to social and health services and will cost the council more in the long run. It’s a false economy.’

Conservative councillor Sheila Scott, who is also the cabinet member for children’s services, pointed out that 40 per cent of the council’s Government funding has been cut since 2010.

‘Peterborough City Council is not ceasing services for children – but we now have to provide those services in different ways. The proposals we have put forward will make sure that families will still be able to access services from children’s centres in Peterborough, with those who are the most vulnerable being our priority.'

She added, ‘This is no different to difficult decisions being made by every other council across the country.  We all have to rethink, quite radically, what local government can do for people and in what areas people are going to have to do much more for themselves with our support.’

However, the Labour and Co-operative councillor remains optimistic that the local elections in May will see the plans reversed.

He said, ‘Peterborough is one of the councils that is expected to change control. I will be calling on all parties to reinvest in children’s services. They won’t have closed all the buildings by then. There is still hope, sometimes common sense does win through.’