Children's centre closures will hit '˜remote' south Northamptonshire hardest fears council leader

Proposals to axe children's centres across Northamptonshire are 'disproportionate' and unfair to parents in the south of the county - according to a district council chief.

Saturday, 9th April 2016, 6:30 am
Deputy leader and cabinet member for children's services at Northamptonshire County Council, Councillor Heather Smith alongside leader of South Northants, Councillor Ian McCord. Councillor McCord says the south of the county could be cut adrift by children's centre cuts.

Last month the county council announced plans to shut eight children’s centres in a bid to save £3 million in this year’s drastic budget.

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

But leader of South Northamptonshire Council, Councillor Ian McCord (Con, Cosgrove and Grafton) says this will leave parents in the largely rural south having to travel much further to access services such parent bonding, domestic abuse support and play sessions.

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There are six widely spaced out children’s centres in south Northamptonshire - but the county council is looking to shut Bugbrooke, and move both Towcester and Deanshanger’s 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.

“We will be asking them to think again.

“There are areas of real need within our district.”

The Conservative cabinet on South Northants Council is to discuss its position on children’s centres at a meeting on Monday night.

The authority’s response to a consultation on the closures was highly critical of the plans.

On moving some centres to libraries the response said it was “unconvinced,” because libraries would struggle to provide services such as “pre-birth classes, child health and breast feeding clinics.”

Councillor McCord fears there has been a presumption that South Northants can cope without the centres due to its perceived affluence.

He said: “if anything our communities are more remote. It is not as easy for parents to travel with their children to the nearest centre, when the county council is also cutting bus services.

“The Brackley to Silverstone bus is going to be greatly reduced for example.”

Councillor McCord is to meet leader of Northamptonshire County Council, Councillor Jim Harker (Con, ISE) next week.

A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said: “We welcome all feedback about the proposals for changes to children’s centre services and will continue to take responses until the consultation closes on April 28.

“The proposals have been made against a backdrop of severely reduced funding available from central government for the running of public services.

“Children’s centre services will still be available across Northamptonshire, but it’s planned that a larger proportion of the funding available for services will be used in areas of greatest need, such as Northampton East and Central, Corby and Wellingborough.

“We’ve worked closely with the organisations that provide the services for us – Action for Children, Spurgeons and the Corby Children’s Centre Consortium – to come up with these proposals.”