Public prompt full Cambridgeshire County Council discussion on future of children’s centres

Murrow Children's Centre is set for closure under proposals to shake-up the service across the county.
Murrow Children's Centre is set for closure under proposals to shake-up the service across the county.

Plans that could see the loss of children’s centres across the county including one in Wisbech with savings of up to £1 million a year are to now be discussed by all Cambridgeshire County Councillors.

Originally the proposals labelled “ambitious” by the council were due to be debated at the children and young people’s committee on October 10, but the strength of public response during the recent consultation, including a 3,000 strong petition, means they will now go to full council for discussion and a decision.

In a report which set out the proposals at the start of the consultation Wendi Ogle-Welbourne said contracts for externally delivered children’s centres were due to end in April 2018 and the council was looking at how money can be spent to have the biggest impact on young children’s development before re-tendering the contracts.

The children’s centre in Murrow was one of those highlighted for closure with the building set to be re-designated to meet other needs for families in the area including child-care provision.

Subsequently county council leader Councillor Steve Count denied the shake-up was about cutbacks and said the £1 million saving was a “happy by-product” of the proposals.

He claimed the move was about improving the way services were delivered so they were more tailored to the needs of the community.

Now the consultation response document will be discussed at full council on October 17, which will coincide with a debate on the proposals triggered by the 3,000 strong petition.

Councillor Simon Bywater, chairman of the children and young people committee, said: “We’re moving this debate to full council to ensure that councillors can hear all sides of the story from each other and from members of the public. We believe in these plans and that they can help every child in Cambridgeshire to thrive by placing frontline services over buildings.

However we recognise there are strong views on both sides and it is the right thing democratically to allow a full debate.”

Members of the public wishing to speak need to register their request at democraticservices@cambridgeshire.gov.uk by midday on Tuesday October 10. Anyone who had already requested to speak at the CYP Committee will be contacted and asked if they would like their request to be considered for the meeting of full council instead.