A FORMER Stratford mayor is urging cash-strapped councils to work together to make proposed community hubs work.
Stratford District councillor Jenny Fradgley said replacing children’s centres would only be a viable solution if councils and the NHS work together for more ‘joined-up’ thinking.
Warwickshire County Council are currently looking at scrapping children’s centres to make way for community hubs, which would offer a range of services under one roof.
Coun Fradgley said: “A signpost only works if there is a service – including a children’s centre – there to be accessed.
“The local NHS talks about community hubs providing services previously dealt with by our hospitals. If the district council, county council and NHS are all moving in the same direction, it would make sense for them to be working together on joint plans.
“I would like to see a joint working party between all these bodies to take the hubs forward.”
She also said it was vital councils talked to one another when planning changes to services to avoid ‘cost shunting’ – with budgets being cut by one council and then additional costs picked up by another.
The Lib Dem coun said an example of this was recently seen in the homelessness budget.
She added: “Stratford district has had a significant rise in homelessness and we have seen families with children in bed and breakfast accommodation.
“The district council’s budget for homelessness has been significantly overspent. This increase in spending is partly due to cut-backs in the county council’s ‘supporting peoples’ budget and significant changes to council tax contributions and benefit payments for some hard pressed families.
“It is vital that councils talk to one another when planning changes to services, otherwise we will see problem and cost shunting from one council to another with the vulnerable suffering the consequences.”
Warwickshire County Council plan to axe 27 of the county’s 39 children’s centres and convert the remaining 12 into ‘hubs’.
The current centres, which offer help and advice to parents and prospective parents, are facing cuts of £1.1million to help make up for a £67million cut in the county council’s government funding.
But the community hub plans have not been received lightly by the public.
A campaign group known as ‘Save Warwickshire Children’s Centres’ have voiced fears that reduced services will result in more children going into care.
In Stratford district, Alcester children’s centre would be converted into a hub, leaving centres in Badger Valley, Clopton, Lighthorne Heath, Southam, Stratford, Studley and Wellesbourne at risk.
The hubs will provide children and families with a range of services, while remaining centres will be ‘subject to reassessment, including alternative options and potential closure’.
County council chiefs say they will talk to providers about continuing to offer services at the remaining centres.
Visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk/ask to find out more