Shutting Northamptonshire’s children’s centres will leave mums isolated says opposition

Councillor Danielle Stone says shutting children's centres could leave parents cut adrift.

Councillor Danielle Stone says shutting children's centres could leave parents cut adrift.

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Proposals to close eight children’s centres in Northamptonshire are “the worst thing a council could do to its youngsters”, according to an outspoken opposition member.

Last week it was announced Northamptonshire County Council plans to close 17 children’s centre buildings by moving some to libraries and shutting eight altogether.

Those earmarked for closure include Wootton, Headlands and Parklands in Northampton.

But the Labour group’s spokeswoman for learning schools and education at the county council, Councillor Danielle Stone, (Lab Abington and Phippsville) has hit out at the plans.

She said: “I am beyond furious - getting rid of children’s centres is the worst possible thing a council can do to our children.”

Councillor Stone believes the Conservative administration should follow Essex County Council in commissioning a Social Impact Bond (SIB) to raise enough money to keep all of its children’s centres, which offer things like stay and play sessions for toddlers, open.

The county council needs to save £65 million in 2016/17, including a £3 million reduction in funding for children’s centres.

To achieve this, is says it will prioritise spending in areas of “greatest need”, such as Northampton East and Central, Corby and Wellingborough.

The proposals are now out to consultation.

But Councillor Stone believes the closures will have a big impact on mothers many of whom go to children’s centres for vital social interaction.

She said: “The worst thing for new mothers is that feeling of being isolated and lonely.

“But meeting with other mums at children’s centres allows them to talk about everyday issues - it’s a chance to check things out with other parents.

Councillor Stone also believes libraries are not a suitable venue for a children’s centre as they do not have a private consultation room,

And she said those whose nearby centre has closed will be put off from taking heir child to one much further away.

“All this reduction in spending now will come at a greater cost further down the line when children come to the council needing targeted support. Every pound spend now will save a hundred pounds later.”

She says the Labour group intends to campaign against the proposed closures in the coming weeks.

A previous backlash against plans to close two care homes, saw the county council shut scale back the plans and shut just one in Ecton Brook.

Deputy leader of the council, Councillor Heather Smith (Con, Oundle) said: “A great deal has changed since children’s centres were first introduced in Northamptonshire more than a decade ago. They now bring together a range of support including health visiting, childcare, family support and adult learning. We want to make sure that we can continue to provide this support, but we need to do it with less money.”