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Future plans revealed for more of county's axed children's centres

PUBLISHED: 16:58 27 August 2019 | UPDATED: 16:58 27 August 2019

Protests against children's centre closures at County Hall Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Protests against children's centre closures at County Hall Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

The future of several more of the county's axed children's centres is to be agreed this week, as their October closing dates edge nearer.

John Fisher, cabinet member for children's services at Norfolk County Council. Photo: Broadland District CouncilJohn Fisher, cabinet member for children's services at Norfolk County Council. Photo: Broadland District Council

All but 15 of the county's children's centres are due to close down and be used for other functions at the end of October, a decision Norfolk County Council controversially made earlier this year.

On Monday, the council's cabinet is expected to rubber-stamp deals for eight of the 38 sites which will close, with sites to be taken over by nurseries, day care centres and academies.

At the same time, the cabinet is also due to finalise leases for 14 of the centres which have been saved - leases which will be handed over to Action for Children, the company that won the contract to provide children's services in Norfolk.

The closures have proven contentious since the plans were first announced, which originally called for 46 to be closed which, after consultation, was scaled back to 38.

Labour county councillor Mike Smith-Clare. Picture: Norfolk Labour GroupLabour county councillor Mike Smith-Clare. Picture: Norfolk Labour Group

But bosses at County Hall said these would allow for building space to be taken up by schools, nurseries and other childcare providers, while providing a saving for the council.

John Fisher, cabinet member for children's services, said: "Our new early childhood and family service will get help to more of the children and families that really need it, with skilled staff working in local community buildings and with families in their homes.

"This means we can spend a greater proportion of our budget on frontline services and can free up buildings for other services for children, including child care and education."

The alternative provision has been criticised by the Labour group at County Hall, which argued the centres were best kept open.

Mike Smith-Clare, Labour's spokesman for children's services, said: "When you believe in something, know its value and have seen the impact it has on people's lives, then it sickens you to the core to see its demise.

"When it is based on cuts yet is still being presented as part of a superior strategy, you feel contempt and anger.

"Children's centres should not be closing and no amount of Tory spin can put that right."

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The cabinet will consider its next steps on Monday, September 2.

Which centres are affected by the meeting?

The 14 centres being leased to Action for Children are as follows:

Acle Marshes, Catton Grove, Norwich Vauxhall Community Hub, Diss, Downham Market, Drayton and Taverham, Earlham, Fakenham, Long Stratton, Nar, North Walsham, Seagulls (Gorleston), Swaffham and Thetford Woodlands

The cabinet is expected to agree leases on Monday for the following:

- Holt - leased to Treehouse Café

- Mundesley - leased to Pebbles Pre-School and Day Care

- Wells - leased to Polka Day Care

- Spixworth - leased to Stepping Stones

- Thetford Kingsway - leased to Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust

The cabinet is set to agree for take overs of the following:

- East City and Framingham Earl - to be taken over by Right for Success Trust

- Stalham and Sutton - to be taken over by Right for Success Trust

- Watton - to be taking over by Corvus Educational Trust

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