Thurston children’s centre to close amid £38.2 million of council budget cuts
Council bosses have confirmed a children’s centre in Thurston is to close as they announced detailed plans for £38.2 million of budget cuts.
The Jigsaw Centre, at Thurston Community College, is one of nine children centres across the county scheduled to close as part of a £2.9 million saving in Children’s and Young People’s Services (CYPS) by 2018.
Its services will be moved to the Bluebell Centre, in Stanton, and Thurston’s New Green Community Centre.
Mid Suffolk District Councillor for Thurston Penny Otton said shutting the Jigsaw Centre, predicted to make an annual saving of just £11,400, would be a ‘grave mistake’.
“The centre helps parents at a time when they may feel they don’t know where to turn for advice, enabling them to speak to someone nearby with experience,” she said.
“It is a very small saving, surely there is somewhere else they could find that amount of money without hitting the most vulnerable of families.”
Suffolk County Council Labour Group leader Sandy Martin called the selection of children’s centres to close a ‘purely financial decision’.
“We need to have a network of children’s centres within walking distance of those who need them most, and if you close them down they are the people who will be least likely to access them,” he said.
The CYPS cuts are part of a wider programme. intended to save the county council £38.2 million in 2015/16.
Detailed plans released this week show that ‘transformation programmes’ will be set up in health, community and highways services, among others, streamlining services to make a £24.6 million saving.
Suffolk County Council leader, Mark Bee, said: “Money is still tight, but through strong financial management, careful planning, determination and ambition, we are making our limited resources stretch a long way.
“Meanwhile, our careful long-term approach means we are able to freeze the county council’s share of council tax for the fifth year in a row.”
Cllr Martin said: “We are in favour of combining services, but it will not work if you try to make cuts before investing money to support the services affected.”
County councillor Ms Otton added: “I think these plans need to be executed extremely carefully.”
The county council is due to discuss the recommended cuts at its cabinet meeting next Tuesday.