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Ipswich: Row blows up over threat to Suffolk children’s centres

PUBLISHED: 09:00 14 July 2014 | UPDATED: 16:42 14 July 2014

Sandy Martin.

Sandy Martin.

Archant

Opposition Labour councillors in Suffolk have launched a broadside at county council plans to shake up children’s centres – which could lead to the closure of nine buildings across the county.

Thursday’s meeting of the full council is set to approve the setting up of a review into the way children’s centres are run in Suffolk.

One of the options to be considered in the review is to close nine buildings across the county.

The centres under threat are:

Brett River, Hadleigh;

Jigsaw, Thurston;

Meredith, Ipswich;

On Track, Haverhill;

Quayside, Ipswich;

Reydon and Southwold;

Roman Hill, Lowestoft;

Sea Breeze, Felixstowe;

Woodlands, Glemsford.

Labour group leader Sandy Martin said: “There seems to be no logic as to why they have chosen to close some Children’s Centres rather than others.

“Meredith Children’s Centre in Ipswich is not expensive per child to run, it is in exactly the right place to help those that need it most and there are 26 other centres that are less well attended that are not being closed.”

He feared there could be further cuts following the review which is also due to look at staffing levels across the service.

Mr Martin was backed up by Ipswich council leader David Ellesmere – who is hoping to win the town’s parliamentary seat in next year’s general election.

He said: “Children’s Centres are there to give our children the best possible start in life. The Conservatives say they are concerned about the problems families face – closing Children’s Centres is a funny way of showing it.”

The county is hoping to save £2.9 million from running its children centres by 2017 – but insists services are not being cut.

Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said: “Children’s centre staff can spend a disproportionate amount of time managing buildings, so for some this would release time that could be better spent with children and families.

“I am absolutely clear that none of the services currently provided by children’s centres will be lost if these proposed changes go ahead.

“They will just be delivered differently, whether that’s from a nearby location or direct to families in their homes.

“Children’s centres provide much-needed support to families and we will do everything we can to ensure those services continue to make a difference to people’s lives.”

Any final decisions would be made by county council’s cabinet in December 2014, following analysis of the consultation responses. Any changes would be implemented from April 2015.

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