County Tories Recommend Cabinet to Proceed with Children Centre Closures
Yesterday, 20th July 2021, the Children and Young People’s Services Scrutiny Committee held a special virtual meeting to consider, for the last time ahead of moving to the implementation phase, the Early Years Re-Design Proposals which will see 31 out of the County 43 Children and Family (Sure Start) Centres axed.
Labour members of the Committee Cllr. Dawn Smith (Broadwater Division) and Cllr. Alison Cornell (Langley Green and Ifield East Division) put forward their own recommendation to Cabinet (see below) which was supported by the Liberal Democrats, but all 8 Tory Committee members voted to recommend moving on to the closure phase.
I genuinely do not think this was a safe decision. Cllr Alison Cornell
Talking after the meeting, Cllr Alison Cornell said; “I genuinely do not think this was a safe decision. How can you just remove over 460,000 opportunities for delivering advice and support with no detailed impact or risk assessment of the consequences of doing that? In my own division we will lose our Centre on Stagelands which has the highest footfall of all those earmarked for closure. We will lose over 68,000 opportunities for advice and support in Langley Green and Ifield East and the idea that that will have no impact is insulting.
“It was clear that there was no appetite for listening to the many very real concerns raised by members.
“It was also clear that this proposal is budget driven and therefore they would not shift their position. Yet only last week we all sat and heard at Full Council how well (financially) West Sussex has done during Covid, with a £28 million surplus of government funding. Surely with so many young families under so much pressure through Covid, some of that money could have at least bought a stay of execution and more time to plan better?
“In any case, in the end budget decisions are about priorities, so my question is what trumps preventing children falling into the vulnerable category at West Sussex?”
Cllr. Dawn Smith added; “I find it regrettable that when questioning the council about how many of the remaining 31 centres having the Early Help service withdrawn from our children’s centres they could not even indicate a rough idea of how many centres will no longer be sustainable. We are to find out after the change of service is implemented, leaving many providers and users in the dark.
“I raised The Wave in my Division of Broadwater because it had the highest number of respondents from any centre in the entire consultation, with Adur and Worthing having the highest responses geographically across the county too. This service really is considered a valuable community asset by its resident’s and the local Labour County, Borough and District Councillors.
“To be advised that 5 of the 12 remaining centres are in Adur and Worthing is seen as no victory for the locality or County. I strongly believe all areas of West Sussex need to keep the early help services in their children’s centres, and the residents overwhelmingly responded to the consultation expressing this, but their voices have been ignored.”
The final decision to move to the implementation phase will be taken at Cabinet on 27 July at 10.30. The meeting will be webcast live.
In the meantime, Dawn and Alison are urging people to email their concerns to Cabinet Members or maybe join the protest urging Cabinet Members to think again outside County Hall, Chichester beginning at 09.45 on 27 July.