Plans to close eight children’s centres across Northamptonshire are now almost certain to go ahead tomorrow - despite street protests and petitions from concerned parents.
Northamptonshire County Council is set to rubber stamp plans to close eight centres altogether and move a further 13 to the nearest library at its May cabinet meeting.
The authority says the move - which will also see opening hours cut around the county - will slash its children’s centre budget from £10 million to £7 million this financial year.
It means Headlands, Parklands and Wootton in Northampton will now close as proposed alongside Bugbrooke, Croyland and Oakway in Wellingborough; Ronald Tree and Thornton in Kettering.
Services currently delivered at Camrose will be moved to Kings Heath.
All the nursery schools based at these children’s centres are not affected by the changes and will remain open.
County Council cabinet member for learning and families, Councillor Matt Golby, said: “Children’s centre services will still be available across Northamptonshire, but financial pressures mean we will be using a larger portion of the funding available for services in areas of greatest need, such as Northampton east and central, Corby an Wellingborough.”
An eight week consultation period saw 700 people air their views on the children’s centre closures, either by filling out online forms or attending a number of open meetings.
While many would disagree, Councillor Golby said the general feeling was that parents “accepted that we have got to save money as part of the bigger picture of savings.”
He said councils across the UK are having to strip back children’s centres amid dwindling funding from central government.
Though 1,787 signed a petition to stop the closures in Corby alone
Leader of South Northamptonshire County Council, Councillor Ian MCord, feels the closure of Bugbrooke will leave parents in rural areas isolated.
There are six widely spaced out children’s centres in south Northamptonshire - but Towcester and Deanshanger’s will also move into local libraries.
Councillor McCord he said: “We certainly feel like the county council is asking us to take more than our fair share of reductions here. It is disproportionate.”
Across the county there will now be 42 centres, a reduction from 50 currently in existence.
Many have derided plans to move services such as breastfeeding support sessions, health checks and midwifery clinics to libraries, which in some cases some do not have private rooms.
Councillor Golby said the council is looking at changing the built structure in a number of libraries.
Children’s centres in Northamptonshire are run by three organisations, Action for Children, Spurgeons and the Corby Children’s Centre Consortium.
Councillor Golby said he does not know how many staff will be affected by the closures at this stage, as that will be down to the individual organisations.
But he said: “unfortunately there will be redundancies.”
The 13 children’s centres where services proposed for relocation to the nearest library are:
Gloucester (will move to Northampton Central Library)
Meadowside (will move to Burton Latimer Library)
Vernon Terrace (will move to Northampton Central Library)