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5th Jul, 2022

Children's centres will not be saved by council cash

CHILDREN’S centres across Stratford district will not be saved from the axe by council cash.

A joint motion was put forward by Coun Jason Fotjik and Coun Peter Barnes calling for under threat children’s centres to be funded from Stratford District Council’s general reserves fund – but the proposal was rejected.

Warwickshire’s 39 centres are facing cuts of £1.1million to help make up for a £67million cut in Warwickshire County Council’s (WCC) government funding.

WCC plans to turn 14 centres into ‘children and family centres’ – providing services to those up to the age of 19 instead of just children under five – with the rest to be either used as outreach sites, or no longer funded by the council.

Coun Fotjik has accused district council chiefs of not giving enough consideration to the motion.

He added: “This is a tragedy for our local young children, a new generation coming through that is not going to get the help to improve life chances.

“This motion was an opportunity for district council to step up to the mark to support these centres to stay open in their current format to remain open, this council did not make consideration for reports from officers nor refer this to the overview and scrutiny committee for consideration.

“In the longer term, the way we look after our youngest members of society and their families , is just as important as public health , educational attainment, social cohesion and district well being.

“This decision locally to close and reconfigure children’s centres to deliberately make them not fit for purpose, says just as much about the kind of Stratford district we want to live in.”

But the decision was defended by community spokesperson Coun Tony Jefferson who said the council’s concern over the original proposal for all but one children’s centre in the district to close, prompted WCC to revise its decision to retain Stratford and Lighthorne centres.

He added: “The county has committed to the following – ‘We will make sure early years, pregnancy and the first 1001 days of a child are given the focus they deserve.’

“The provision of children’s services is and remains the responsibility of the county council, not the district. The district council will, of course continue both to review, and comment constructively on the level of services provided by the county as it affects our residents in the district and will continue to provide support to those families in need through the services it currently provides.”

Under the proposals Alcester, Stratford and Lighthorne children’s centres would be converted into hubs, while centres in Badger Valley, Clopton, Studley and Wellesbourne could be closed.

Centres in Shipston and Southam will be used as a base to trial outreach services.

WCC says its proposed family hubs will provide a wider range of services than currently available, while remaining centres will be ‘subject to reassessment, including alternative options and potential closure’.

The move is set to be implemented by October 2019.

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