Fresh bid to save children’s centres after announcement nine would close across Suffolk

Lilly Clements waves her flag during the protest outside Endeavour House against the proposed closur

Lilly Clements waves her flag during the protest outside Endeavour House against the proposed closure of Children's Centres. Photograph Simon Parker - Credit: Archant

Suffolk County Council’s decision to close nine of its children’s centres has been referred back to the authority’s scrutiny committee by the opposition Labour group.

They believe the correct processes were not followed last week when the cabinet voted in favour of closing or merging the centres across the county.

The decision will now be considered again by next week’s meeting of the county’s scrutiny committee.

Labour challenged the decision by identifying a key document that was not presented to the cabinet before their decision was taken.

Official Department of Education guidance, which states that there should not be a presumption to close children’s centres, was not presented to the cabinet.

The second point on which the decision is being reviewed is that the criteria for choosing which centres are to be closed was not clear in the papers presented to them.

Labour spokeswoman for children’s services Bryony Rudkin said: “The fight to save children’s centres will continue. How a paper can be presented to cabinet without reference to the key guidance documentation from central government, I will never know.

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“This blatant disregard for the guidance shows that the decision to close children’s centres is nothing to do with need, buildings or services. As cabinet members said in their meeting, this decision was only ever about saving money.”

Gordon Jones, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “Our focus from the start has been about taking the excellent services provided by our children’s centres and making sure that they reach the people they most need to reach.

“We’re well aware that Labour councillors seem to have no concept of the serious financial challenges we face, and have shown no inclination to get involved in the consultation process.

“But while they play their political games, we’re focusing on getting the best possible support for those young families most in need – making our excellent children’s centre services as accessible as we can.”