CHIEFS at Warwickshire County Council have robustly defended their decision to axe a number of children’s centres, including the one in Studley, claiming it will enable them ‘to offer a quality service for all’.
A statement from county hall, following the decision at a cabinet meeting on Thursday, November 9, said: “The new model will ensure the council can direct decreasing resources in the most effective ways to deliver the right support at the right time to the people who need it most.”
The childrens centre in Studley currently has 569 children registered with it of whom 539 have visited the high street site in the last 12 months.
County Councillor Jeff Morgan, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, added: “We have made an important decision which will enable us to offer quality services for all, and better support for those families who need us most.
“We have to do things differently in order to prioritise our services rather than buildings, some of which are expensive to maintain and not being used efficiently.
“We have to invest our budget in developing appropriate and future-proof services which help people to help themselves and identify potential issues as early as possible.
“We know that currently children’s centres aren’t suitable for everyone, and that the system needs a radical rethink in order for us to do the best for the most people. Any period of change is unsettling and we have taken every opportunity to listen to people’s concerns and offer reassurance where we can.
“The consultation had an incredible response which clearly demonstrates how important and valued our early years services are. We have listened to people, taking on board what they value the most and this has been reflected in the plans.
“We are committed to building on the successful foundations laid by our children’s centres as we begin work with partners and community groups to reshape our offer to Warwickshire families.”
Following a period of transition with current children’s centre providers, it is expected that the new model will implemented by October 1, 2019.
Coun Clive Rickhards (Lib Dem, Studley) who addressed the cabinet meeting that made the decision said: “I simply told them that in Studley’s case, with the best will in the world, this cannot possibly be an improvement on what we have now.”
Councillors attending the meeting were met with protesters holding banners condemning the cuts, which will almost inevitably lead to job losses as well as the closure of all but three children’s centres in Stratford district.
Warwickshire County Council is attempting to save £1.12million from its children’s centres budget and currently has 39 such centres, of which eight are in Stratford district.
Following a review of the initial proposal, which would have reduced the number of centres in the district to just one, based in Alcester, two more have been added, one in Stratford and the other at Lighthorne Heath just south of Leamington.