REVISED plans for children’s centres leave children in Stratford district vulnerable.
So says Stratford District Council leader Chris Saint who has hit out at Warwickshire County Council’s proposals which he has branded ‘little more than a gesture’.
Coun Saint, who represents Shipston north, has called on county council leader Izzi Seccommbe – who represents neighbouring Stour and the Vale – to ditch the rejigged plans for the centres which provide a range of support services for families with children under five
They were drawn up following a consultation on the controversial proposals to close a number of the county’s 39 children’s centres which have been met with anger across Warwickshire.
Faced with a £67million cut in government funding, county council chiefs aimed to save £1.1million by creating 12 all-purpose hubs, providing services to children and young people up to the age of 19.
But after Stratford district residents raised concerns Alcester would be the only centre left in the district, the new report recommended keeping Stratford and Lighthorne centres as they were, raising the number of centres to be kept to 14. Centres at Badger Valley in Shipston and Southam are also now expected to be spared for at least a year to trial outreach services.
But Coun Saint said the new proposals did not go far enough to offer support and protection to the district’s children, particularly those living in poorer households.
He said: “In Stratford district a significant population is spread over much smaller towns and villages, large and small. This requires a different approach as pockets of deprivation can be hidden from statistical view by more prosperous pockets of population.
“There is a view in Shire Hall (county council headquarters) that Stratford district is a prosperous area that does not require support in the same way needed in deprived areas in larger towns. Such an approach denies access to services to those deprived areas of Stratford’s and they do exist.”
But Coun Seccombe said the proposals would not be withdrawn
She added: “It is clear that Coun Saint has misunderstood what we are trying to achieve in this redesign.
“We were very pleased to see so many people attending our consultation meetings where we were able to discuss the proposed changes and listen to their comments. We have taken on board their comments and changed our proposals accordingly.
“In our new arrangements we want to make sure that people are at the front line of our services. Buildings take up so much money and are limited by their availability and geography and often difficult to reach for those with scarce resources. We want service for people not buildings.
“We have been working with our current service providers who have offered to manage the services through this change and beyond.”
The proposals were set to be discussed by the county council’s Cabinet yesterday (Thursday).