Children's centres changes beginning to take shape

Yeovil Express: CLLR Frances Nicholson. CLLR Frances Nicholson.

THE first stage of a decision to change the way children’s centres are run across Somerset was announced last Thursday.

Somerset County Council says the changes will reduce spending on management and administration and increase spending on the front-line by restructuring the service on an area basis.

Chard’s Children Centre, at Clare House, is expected to be largely unaffected but Ile Valley Children’s Centre in Wharf Lane, Ilminster, and Ashlands in North Street, Crewkerne are likely to be stripped of their children’s centre title and may close.

Cllr Frances Nicholson spoke at County Hall in Taunton about the first part of a plan to strip the children’s centre title from 18 of the county’s 41 facilities.

The future of individual centres was not discussed at this meeting.

Cllr Nicholson said: “I have decided today to restructure the service so that less money is spent on management and admin, and more is spent on the front-line services that people need and value.

“We would not create a new service that spends more than half of its budget on management, admin and buildings. I believe the vast majority of people will support this and if we are to get more help to the families that need it most, things need to change.

“In terms of individual centres, we will be revising plans and carrying out local consultation appropriate to the significance of any proposed change before any decisions about individual centres are taken.

“Until this has happened, I cannot speculate on what the outcomes will be. But we can reassure families that every community that currently has children’s centre activities will continue to have them – either provided from the building they are used to using or elsewhere in the local community.”

Yeovil MP David Laws has written to the leader of the council, Cllr John Osman, to express his concern at the proposals.

He said: “I am really concerned that Somerset County Council’s proposals would lead to the closure of 18 children’s centres in the county, a loss of over 40%. These centres provide an invaluable service for families and children and I do not want to see that service compromised.

“I would urge local residents who have concerns to take part in the consultation and get in touch with me. I have written to the council about their plans and I will be keeping a very close eye on the results of the consultation process.”

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