Council apology over Labour children's centres briefings

Rachael Shimmin, Durham County Council's corporate director of children and adults services

Rachael Shimmin, Durham County Council's corporate director of children and adults services

First published in News
Last updated

COUNCIL chiefs have apologised after only Labour councillors were briefed on controversial plans to axe children’s centres before they were made public.

Rachael Shimmin, Durham County Council’s corporate director for children and adults services, admitted her service had just got it wrong, failed to act “in the constitutional way” and said she absolutely held her hands up.

“That was our mistake in the service. I apologise on behalf of the service,” she said, before promising it would not happen again.

Cllr Ossie Johnson, the Labour cabinet member for children and young people’s services, also apologised, but stressed there had been “no clandestine motivation behind the oversight”.

However, Liberal Democrat leader Amanda Hopgood said the same thing had happened over leisure centre closures.

She called for a 12-week consultation agreed by the council’s Labour cabinet earlier this month to be halted, pending further investigation.

However, the Labour-controlled overview and scrutiny committee rejected this, voting to take no further action.

“So much for consultation,” Cllr Hopgood said.

The council is looking at slashing its children’s centres from 43 to 15, with 28 being transferred to schools and nurseries or used for other purposes.

The proposals were announced earlier this month. But, while Labour councillors were pre-warned, opposition members were not – even if they had centres affected in their area.

Lib Dems and Conservatives demanded the issue be “called in” for further investigation, leading to today’s (Thursday, July 31) committee.

Lib Dem Mamie Simmons claimed Labour knew three weeks before the opposition.

“All members of this authority should be treated the same,” she said.

Ms Shimmin said all councillors were briefed before consultation began but admitted the mistake and said lessons had been learned.

Cllr Joe Armstrong, the committee’s Labour chair, said it was very big of Ms Shimmin to apologise but asked for an assurance it would not happen again, which Ms Shimmin gave.

The shake-up would save about £1m a year from an annual service budget of £4.9m at a time when the council faces cuts of £224m between 2011 and 2017.

Council chiefs say the centres have not reached children most in need and an improved service would be offered from community venues.

The consultation runs until October 23. To take part, visit durham.gov.uk/childrenscentreconsultation, call 03000-266-510, email childrenscentreconsultation@durham.gov.uk or write to: Children’s Centre Consultation, FREEPOST, NEA10933, County Hall, Durham, DH1 5BR.

Comments (6)

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2:03pm Thu 31 Jul 14

DURHAM CITY says...

Well said Councillor Hopgood and your dead right the same thing happened with the Leisure Centres and will never be forgotten they need to get a grip these Labour Cabinet people like clueless???
Well said Councillor Hopgood and your dead right the same thing happened with the Leisure Centres and will never be forgotten they need to get a grip these Labour Cabinet people like clueless??? DURHAM CITY
  • Score: 15

2:27pm Thu 31 Jul 14

Durhamite1979 says...

You can get Durham County Council themed seaside rock you know - it says "CORRUPT" right through the middle...
You can get Durham County Council themed seaside rock you know - it says "CORRUPT" right through the middle... Durhamite1979
  • Score: 17

3:39pm Thu 31 Jul 14

oliviaden6 says...

Hope the leader of the department is putting herself up for the chop also, if there are not enough nurseries after this what do we need her for then????
Hope the leader of the department is putting herself up for the chop also, if there are not enough nurseries after this what do we need her for then???? oliviaden6
  • Score: 12

3:48pm Thu 31 Jul 14

settheworldonfire says...

This council is corrupt....I am now writing a letter to Durham Police to ask for an investigation into all these deals done by the council.....Why have the council not been investigated before ?......Time for a whistle blower in d.c.c. to come out and tell the public what is going on behind the closed doors in county hall......
This council is corrupt....I am now writing a letter to Durham Police to ask for an investigation into all these deals done by the council.....Why have the council not been investigated before ?......Time for a whistle blower in d.c.c. to come out and tell the public what is going on behind the closed doors in county hall...... settheworldonfire
  • Score: 14

6:45pm Thu 31 Jul 14

pxatkins says...

You cannot blame the recipient of a message for the failure of the messenger to deliver it elsewhere. Idiots.
You cannot blame the recipient of a message for the failure of the messenger to deliver it elsewhere. Idiots. pxatkins
  • Score: 2

11:09pm Thu 31 Jul 14

josie40 says...

Well if Miss Shimmin apologised that must be Ok then... What utter rubbish. It is a total whitewash, consultation is a pointless exercise, decisions have already been made. Opposition councillors couldn't get consultation halted or deferred because the paper has already been sent out before todays decision. Closing the centres will put vulnerable families and children at risk.
Well if Miss Shimmin apologised that must be Ok then... What utter rubbish. It is a total whitewash, consultation is a pointless exercise, decisions have already been made. Opposition councillors couldn't get consultation halted or deferred because the paper has already been sent out before todays decision. Closing the centres will put vulnerable families and children at risk. josie40
  • Score: 3

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