Consultation day – update

Firstly, thank you to everyone who attend the consultation day at the forum in Norwich today.  We had some great discussions with parents who attended to voice their concerns, but also grandparents who have grand-children attending centres, or attended in the past.

 

It was amazing to hear people coming out from the consultation, with Norfolk council not describing this as a cut, but as a ‘transformation’ and ‘investment’ (although £5 million has been removed from the budget).

When the 4pm consultation session finished, we attended a meeting at Norwich City Council and sat in for the scrutiny committee to listen to them assessing the impact of these proposals on the residents of Norwich.

There was a feeling by the committee that the data isn’t in a helpful format and doesn’t provide enough impact information.  It was discussed that children’s centres were created and put in the places they were because a need was identified, and providing an online information service will not be sufficient, especially as Norfolk County Council’s own data shows that the areas where these centres are being cut people are at risk of facing digital exclusion due to poor broadband infrastructure, poor mobile signal etc., poverty etc.

The committee also discussed about the duty of Norfolk County Council to protect families from facing exclusion, but by removing these centres are they fulfilling that duty? There is a great deal of concern in regards to taking these facilities away. Staff within these centres are trained to deal with issues and sometimes a family may attend for one service and be able to link in with another service, but that will no longer be available if these proposals go ahead.

One of the city councillors present within the meeting also raised concerns that nobody from Norfolk County Council was present at the meeting.

 

The proposals don’t explain what the County Council is planning to do with the buildings that will be closed, and don’t have any information provided to explain this.

 

During the meeting, we were pleased to hear one of our questions finally be answered (albeit not by Norfolk County Council). The committee have raised their concerns that no discussions have taken place between Norfolk County Council and Norwich City Council about using facilities – The committee question how their facilities can be included on the proposals without even knowing if they are available or suitable.

The committee refer to the audit commission report that states Children’s Centres are value for money and there is clearly a demand for the service, so they would question why these changes are being proposed.

City councillors agreed the proposals are “dishonest” & “full of blatant lies”.  Norwich City Council will write a formal letter to Norfolk County Council outlining these feelings and issues. The committee feels the idea of taking the service into peoples homes is a “joke” and “unworkable”.

Central government previously described Norwich as an”opportunity” and made £6 million pounds available, which was used to look at truancy issues, so why wasn’t this available for early years help?

 

In an unusual move, I asked the committee chairman if I could make a short statement and he allowed it at his discretion.  I thanked the committee for taking this issue so seriously and it was great to hear them looking through this, and sharing the concerns of families.

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