Video: Nine children’s centres across Suffolk to close despite opposition protest

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

Nine Suffolk children’s centres are to close their doors and see their services moved to other venues in a cost-cutting move by the county council.

The council’s cabinet has agreed the move despite a lively protest outside Endeavour House by the Ipswich Labour Party and other supporters of the under-threat centres.

The proposed closures first became clear last year at the start of a lengthy consultation period with Labour MP Frank Field being brought in by the council to advise on how children’s services could be reorganised in Suffolk.

The final proposal, published last week, had the same list of proposed closures and led to councillors claiming the whole exercise was a sham.

Opposition Labour group leader Sandy Martin said: “We could not really see any difference in the paper for this meeting to that in July. Everyone thinks this was a paper exercise just to confirm the county’s proposal.”

Cabinet member for children’s services Gordon Jones told the meeting that the department did need to save money, but the proposal would ensure that the services were retained – even though they were not provided from expensive or outdated buildings.

He came under fire from fellow Conservative councillor Anne Gower who was concerned about proposals to close the On Track children’s centre in Haverhill.

She said it was the most popular children’s centre in the town – and feared many of its users would not travel to the other side of Haverhill to the Carthorse centre.

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She said: “There are people in Haverhill who believe this has all been decided. Please show you are listening to their concerns.”

Mr Martin asked whether the cost of rent at the Meredith Centre in Ipswich was the only reason for its closure.

Mr Jones replied, quoting former Labour cabinet minister Liam Byrne: “Sorry, there is no more money.”

His deputy cabinet member Matthew Hicks said: “We have been through a very thorough consultation exercise, and yes we do need to save money.

“But this will ensure the services are still there for the people who use them and will need them in the future.

“So far as the Meredith centre, yes the cost of the building was the major factor. The NHS is putting up the rent by 400%. We simply cannot afford that.”

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