Campaign to stop closure of children's centres stops in Bury St Edmunds
A campaign to stop the closure of Suffolk's children's centre's stopped in Bury St Edmunds this morning.
The campaign was launched earlier this month by Sandy Martin, Labour MP for Ipswich, after it was revealed that Suffolk County Council is considering plans to close half of the county's children’s centres.
Parents and members of the public who have used children's centres met outside the Carousel Children's Centre, in St Olaves Road, this morning as part of the campaign.
Katie Parker, a member of the public involved in the campaign, said: "I am here because we used to use the children's centre. I think they are vital for our community. It's a place for mum's to meet up. A place where we can go to baby groups or antenatal groups."
Cllr Jack Abbott, Labour spokesman for children's services, education and skills at Suffolk County Council, said: “Children’s centres exist in order to support families and give children the best start in life. For too long the Tories at Suffolk County Council have been taking part in a race to the bottom, with their managed decline of public services continuing unabated.
“They have got to start thinking five, ten, twenty years ahead and ask themselves; ‘what will the future hold for children and families in Suffolk if we remove these lifelines?’."
The campaign is also due to stop in Lowestoft, Sudbury and Felixstowe.
Cllr Abbott added: “It is time the Conservatives realise the value in properly funding children’s centres, support services, early intervention and youth provision. Investment in these areas would not only bring huge social benefits to children and their families, but it will also save the council money further down the line.
“Let’s hope that the Tories wake up and realise their mistake before it is too late.”
However, Conservatives have said that no children's centres will be closed in Suffolk without a full public consultation.
Sources indicated that a cross-party task group reviewing the future of children's services at Suffolk County Council was considering the closure of as many as half of the county's centres.
This prompted leaders from the Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent groups to remove their councillors from the policy development panel (PDP).
Conservative chiefs at the county council have stressed no decision has been made and that the PDP recommended would be assessed with a full public consultation.
Gordon Jones, Conservative cabinet member for children's services, education and skills, said: "I think what parents should be concerned about at the moment, and indeed staff, is the leaking of what hopefully were open and frank discussions of the remodelling of the provision.
"Since the late 1990s when the children's centres were first set up things have changed.
"Suffolk County Council has a much closer working relationship with the CCGs (clinical commissioning groups), we have the alliance working implemented, we now have health visitors in-house and we are now remodelling the 0-19 service, which has come in-house.
"Things have changed and we want to see which the best model is to continue, not only for the present but for the future."
A petition is accompanying the campaign and has already gained 700 signatures.
It can be found at: www.ipswich-labour.org.uk/save_suffolk_s_children_s_centres