‘Drastic’ cuts would spark more protest

A CAMPAIGNER fighting to protect children’s centres has warned that more protests could be on the cards if planned changes mean a poorer service.

Gemma Wilson, chairwoman of Save Our SureStart, is waiting to see how the new children’s centres strategy will work in practice after councillors gave it the go-ahead last week.

The mum-of-two said she was surprised the decision was not sent back to the cabinet.

“It’s given the council awareness of how people are actually feeling about the decision,” she said.

“I think the consultation wasn’t managed as well as it could have been.”

Mrs Wilson said the original consultation should have examined parents’ use of the centre, and said overall the paperwork was “quite poor”.

And staff cuts are still a concern for the campaign.

“If the staff situation changes drastically it might affect service delivery,” she said.

“If they did have massive cuts, protest would be something I would be picking up again.”

But she added that Save Our SureStart was pleased to see universal services maintained and approved of the Early Intervention Partnership Boards, which will allow parents and centre users to feedback to the council and centre management.

The ‘cluster’ model, which will see up to four centres grouped together with a single management and administration hub, was approved by the cabinet in March.

Last week, a scrutiny panel reviewed the decision, but despite listening to strong objections from the public at the meeting, the panel cemented the decision and the ‘cluster’ model will now be implemented.

The panel said staff, service users and the public need to be fully informed about the changes and the Early Intervention Partnership Boards should be formed as soon as possible to aid the transition.

They recommended that the progress of the new strategy be relayed to the cabinet via quarterly reports presented at cabinet meetings.