Northamptonshire County Council has launched a consultation into proposed changes to children’s centre services in the county.
The county council needs to save £65m in 2016/17, including a £3m reduction in funding for children’s centres.
Following discussions with children’s centre providers, the county council will now hold a six-week consultation on proposals which could see the closure of eight of Northamptonshire’s 50 children’s centres – Wootton, Headlands and Parklands in Northampton, Ronald Tree and Thornton in Kettering, Croyland and Oakway in Wellingborough, and Bugbrooke in south Northamptonshire.
Services at a further nine centres - including Meadowside in Kettering and Rothwell - will be transferred to the local library or another community venue, and all areas of the county are likely to see a change in the services available.
County council deputy leader and cabinet member for children’s services Cllr Heather Smith said: “Reduced funding from central government and unprecedented demand for public services means the county council will have to make £65m savings in the coming financial year, including a £3m reduction in children’s centre services.
“We have been consulting on the reduction in the children’s centre services budget since December and this consultation invites comments on how this reduction will affect specific children’s centres.”
The UK’s first ever children’s centre was at Pen Green in Corby.
A charity called 4Corby Children says the cuts will mean children’s centres in Corby will have 25 per cent cut from their budgets.
A spokesman said: “This will have a devastating impact, on children and families as well as the centres themselves, but also on the voluntary organisations with whom they are involved, and ultimately the young children of Corby.
“Children’s centres offer unique opportunities to families in terms of support, health advice and early learning opportunities.
“When we consider the impact on children and families further down the line it is short sighted to reduce funding in any early years facilities.
“Corby is a town that can ill afford further disadvantage for its children, ranked within the lowest quarter nationally for multiple deprivation, the heritage of well established children’s centres and local support is something to be cherished and preserved.
“We absolutely believe that children’s centres should be available for all families in the county.
“We are, however, forced to concede that if cuts have to be made in this vital area that there are locations across Northamptonshire where children will not face the kinds of disadvantages that Corby children have endured for decades including inadequate housing, risk of violence and domestic abuse, extreme poverty, reduced educational chances and lack of career opportunities.
“We are calling upon Northamptonshire County Council to stop the cut to children’s centres budgets.”
4Corby Children has set up a petition at 38degrees and is on Twitter and Facebook.
Its petition, which already has 600 signatures, will be delivered to county hall prior to the final decision-making meeting.
A rally to celebrate the services for children in Corby and bring the proposal to the town’s attention is being organised on Saturday, April 2, meeting at The Cube from 10am.
To take part in the official NCC consultation, which closes on April 28, visit www.northamptonshire.gov.uk/childrenscentreconsultation.
A final decision will be made at the Cabinet meeting in May.