Dispatch district children's centre under threat iof closure as council tries to save £28 million

The future of Bulwell Children’s Centre is in doubt after Nottingham City Council announced the proposed closure of six centres in the city.

Monday, 15th November 2021, 9:08 am

The council says it has no choice but to make the closures as it struggles to fill a large gap in its budget and make £28 million of savings over the next year.

But charities have slammed the proposals, asking ‘where will parents go?’

Proposals include closing six of the nine children’s centres in the city and moving to a hub model of three, saving the local authority £331,000.

Nottingham City Council needs to save £28 million

The council says it has fought to protect the services across years of financial uncertainty but a combination of factors means it now has to make more cuts in order to carry on providing other services.

A public consultation will be launched this month to gauge residents’ views and no decision has been made yet on which centres would face the axe.

Children’s centres provide midwifery, antenatal and post-natal clinics, child health clinics, early help for vulnerable parents including parents who have children with disabilities, autism or Asperger’s Syndrome.

They also provide adult learning provision including numeracy and literacy and learning and play sessions for young children and their families.

The current nine centres include Bulwell Children’s Centre, Aspley (Minver Crescent) Children’s Centre, Aspley (Amesbury Circus) Children’s Centre, Broxtowe Children’s Centre, Southglade Access Centre (Bestwood Children’s Centre), Bilborough Children’s Centre, Hyson Green Children’s Centre, Sneinton Children’s Centre and Meadows Children’s Centre.

Hyacinth Francis-Watson, project manager of The Chayah Project in St Ann’s, says her charity works with the children’s centres in Sneinton and Bilborough.

This includes offering a food bank service and running workshops with struggling families.

She said: “These are safe places for parents and children to go to if they want support, especially if English is their second language.

“It is disgusting, if they are going to close them down why not offer them to the voluntary sector to see if they want to run them?

"It is just separating the community, where will these parents go when they are in need?

"Where is their safe place?

“The people who use the centres are the most deprived.”

Coun Sam Webster (Lab), portfolio holder for finance, said reductions in Government funding were behind the £28 million gap in finances.

He added it also comes on the back of a ‘social care crisis’, with adult social care and child social care taking up a combined £155 million of the council’s £240 million overall budget.

He also says the local authority has been left £19.4 million out of pocket through not being fully compensated for income lost as a result of tackling Covid-19.

He said: “These services are important to families and children – that is why we have desperately tried to safeguard them.”

He added he had tried to protect services for ‘years and years’ but says under-funding by Government was most to blame for the decision to reduce services.

He added: “I am frustrated by the things I have to do.”

Coun Andrew Rule, leader of the Conservative group at the council, said he believed the council could better protect services by selling off companies and better managing properties it owns.

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