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Protest planned at County Hall over closure of Norfolk’s children’s centres

PUBLISHED: 17:23 09 October 2018 | UPDATED: 09:52 11 October 2018

A protest in Great Yarmouth about proposals to close children's centres. A further protest is planned at County Hall. Picture: Anthony Carroll

A protest in Great Yarmouth about proposals to close children's centres. A further protest is planned at County Hall. Picture: Anthony Carroll

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Parents who have used Norfolk’s under-threat children’s centres will be joining a protest at County Hall against potential closures.

The plans to lobby councillors come as trade union UNISON branded Norfolk County Council’s consultation over the future of the centres as “a sham”.

Consultation is under way over the council’s proposals to shut 46 of Norfolk’s 53 children’s centres, which were used by 23,000 families over the past year, as part of a review of the service.

Seven existing children’s centres would remain as bases. Council bosses say they can make better use of money by spending it on services for children, rather than managing buildings.

They say they will be able to reach more families that really need it.

But the council has already agreed to halve the budget from £10m to £5m, as contracts for the 12 current providers of the services come to an end next year.

UNISON says the council has told them the consultation is only to “shape the detail” of future services and the funding cut is not for discussion.

Branch secretary Jonathan Dunning said: “This consultation is a sham if the council will not listen to other solutions instead of chopping the budget in half.

“The people of Norfolk have been invited to have their say on children’s services. But County Hall will only listen if the suggestions are about how to implement its £5m cut.

“The loss of these centres will be devastating for Norfolk’s children and families. Without the support centres provide, there’s every likelihood the number of referrals to social services will increase and more children will end up in care.”

The Liberal Democrats and Labour have both tabled motions for Monday morning’s full council meeting calling for the consultation to be suspended.

Parents of children who use the centres are expected to join the Labour-organised lobby at County Hall that day.

Stuart Dark, acting chairman of the council’s children’s services committee, said: “I would ask people to read the consultation document, see what’s being proposed and on offer, and actually engage with the process.

“No decisions have been taken as of yet, and it’s key that we listen to the effects that it will have on people in their localities, in order to make the best decisions going forward.”

Meanwhile, the council is holding a drop-in event about the proposals at Norwich’s Millennium Library on Thursday. Sessions, run from 10am until noon, 2pm to 4pm and 6pm to 8pm.

The consultation, which runs until November 12, is at www.norfolk.gov.uk/children-and-families/childrens-centres

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