The loss of two children’s centres in Fenland including one at Murrow is “definitely not about cutbacks” says Cambridgeshire County Council leader Steve Count.
He claims the move, which is currently out for public consultation, is about providing the best childcare services and will in fact see improved provision rather than less.
And he says the £1 million saving is a “happy bi-product” of the proposals which are the subject of drop-in consultation sessions: one on Wednesday 23 at the Oasis Centre in Wisbech from 1pm to 3pm and another on Wednesday August 30 at the Murrow Children’s Centre at the same times.
Cllr Count adds the council is looking at ways of improving the way services are delivered and also wants to tailor services to meet the local needs.
Theresa Levay, the council’s director of children’s services, agrees that changes are needed and pointed out that when children’s centres were first launched around 15 years ago they were set up in buildings across the county without much thought as to whether they were in the right place.
“There was a real rush to set up children’s centres as part of the Sure Start initiative and since then they have continued to operate in the same way as when they opened.
“This is a real review of the services we provide. We are looking at the suitability of buildings, whether they meet the needs of the community they serve and whether the service can be provided in a more efficient way.
“The building at Murrow is very small and we hold a lot of our sessions in the community centre so the loss of the building in the village is not really a concern. It will save money not only on running the building itself but also in terms of managing it. The children’s centre will be much better used to provide pre-school provision, especially with the 30 hours of free child care coming in from September. And the majority of sessions which are linked to the children’s centre will continue to be run, as they are now at the community centre where there is room to accommodate them properly.”
Ms Levay said those in need of specialist support will be able to access it at the children’s centre in Wisbech and that transport would be available.
“We are genuinely redesigning the way services are delivered. This is not about saving money, it is about ensuring we provide the right kind of service in the right place so people get the support they need. The £1 million of savings is through no longer having buildings that are not fit for purpose and also in management. The services will remain the same or in most cases will be better. I urge everyone who is interested to attend the consultation meetings to find out more,” she said.