The petition can be signed at the county council’s petition webpage, the link for which is below:
Campaigners to save West Sussex children and family centres from closure have been shocked that a petition with more than 9,000 signatures will not be discussed by West Sussex County Council until after cutbacks are agreed.
Councillors Cat Arnold, Lee Cowen and Carl Walker, Labour members of Adur and Worthing councils, launched the petition earlier this month calling on the county council to halt proposed cuts to its Early Help service and reverse the proposed closures of children’s and family centres and Find it Out advice centres.
The council will decide next year’s budget on 12 February, which includes a planned cut of £1.95 million from services for children and young people, but the Tory run council has decided they will not discuss the petition until 19 March.
The Tory leadership at West Sussex County Council are proposing the closure of 32 of the 43 children and family centres in the county. The changes would also see all 12 of the Find It Out youth advice centres close.
Cat Arnold (Lab, St Marys), one of the petition organisers said: “Just how arrogant can you be to ignore the genuine concerns of local people. It is shocking. This county council does not appear to care about the views of the people they are supposed to represent, or the damage these cuts will do to many families.”
She added: “They will discuss the petition against the cuts a month after they decide to make cuts. That is treating local people with disdain. It also makes a mockery of their petition system. They invite people to submit petitions, but what is the point if they do not discuss them in good time?
“These services are an essential part of many communities across the county and need to be protected from unnecessary cuts. This is especially the case when the need will be to support many families recovering from the pressures of Covid. It has posed physical, mental health and social isolation issues for so many vulnerable families. Women have been especially affected by Covid and this is like a double blow to them, when they need the services the most.”
Agreeing with Cllr Arnold, Labour Group Leader at West Sussex County Council Michael Jones (Southgate and Gossops Green) said:
“The West Sussex Tories’ budget plans indicate the cuts to the children and family centres have already been budgeted assuming they will close from October. It doesn’t inspire confidence they’ll really listen to the outcome of the consultation, and they’re going to happen regardless.
“The shocking disrespect the Tory leadership has had for many young families concerns on an extremely important service like this is just yet another example of how they have disastrously they have run this council. It is entirely unacceptable and it has got to change.”