Talks agreed over future of children's centres

Liberal Democrat councillor Owen Temple (8575599)

Liberal Democrat councillor Owen Temple (8575599)

First published in News

PLANS to slash a county’s children’s centres will be further debated next week (Thursday, July 31), amid allegations local councillors were not properly briefed on the shake-up.

As revealed in The Northern Echo earlier this month, Labour-led Durham County Council is considering transferring 28 of its 43 facilities to schools or nurseries or putting them to other uses.

The council says no closures are proposed and the move would save about £1m a year.

But opposition councillors claim while Labour members were pre-briefed on the proposals, they were not.

They have succeeded in their demand that the matter be “called in” for further investigation.

It will now be discussed by the council’s overview and scrutiny committee at County Hall, Durham, at 9.30am next Thursday (July 31).

Liberal Democrat Owen Temple said: “We fear that officers may have neglected their constitutional obligation to discuss local issues with local councillors before taking proposals about them to cabinet.

“We are pleased that we will now have the opportunity to discuss this in scrutiny.”

Labour’s Ossie Johnson has said the shake-up would offer many of the children most in need a better chance of getting the help they need, as services would switch from specialist buildings to community venues already attended by families.

The children’s centres, opened from 2004 onwards, were a flagship social policy but, while the facilities are popular with families who use them, council chiefs now say they have not produced the hoped-for impact for the poorest children.

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