‘Tragic’ lack of use blamed for children’s centre closing

PUBLISHED: 07:00 01 March 2018

Protestors gathered at the Town Hall when the budget was decided.

Protestors gathered at the Town Hall when the budget was decided.

Archant

Closing children’s centres in North Somerset will impact on young children and their families, it has been warned.

Banwell, Wincombe and Sandford Children’s Centre, in Banwell, is expected to be one of two to close, as North Somerset Council is cutting £135,000 from its budget.

The council says outreach services will be made available in Banwell and Long Ashton, which also faces closure. Yatton’s services may be also reduced.

Voluntary Action North Somerset (VANS), which has recruited 78 volunteers to support children’s centre staff, has concerns about the impact the closures will have.

Doreen Smith, chief executive at VANS, said: “Our concern with the proposals is the (council’s) report has highlighted reductions in services as having a high impact on women, young children and people on a low income and disabled people.

“The negative impact upon these services of this reduction is assessed as ‘high’.

“North Somerset Council’s ambitions clearly state they wish to ‘support families to give their children the best start in life’ and ‘empower people to contribute to their community’.

“These proposals do little to support this.

“Families will need to travel further to access services and vulnerable families will be at risk.”

MORE: How did your councillor vote on the budget?

Conservative group councillor Ann Harley, who represents Banwell, said she fights tooth and nail for every child.

She said: “When we originally had funding for the children’s centre, it was on the understanding it would be for Banwell and Winscombe.

“Unfortunately, as hard as we 
tried, we couldn’t get the community of Winscombe involved in the 
centre.

“The tragedy is, unfortunately the footfall in Banwell Children’s Centre is not there.”

A public consultation will take place before changes are made, but the cuts will take place one way or another.

Opposition groups proposed a budget amendment to reverse the cut last week, but the council voted against the idea.

Cllr Mike Bell said some senior council roles could be cut and agency spending reduced to stop changes to the centres.

Cllr Tom Leimdorfer, who represents Congresbury and Puxton, said children’s centres have helped to save the authority money elsewhere in its budget by doing social work.

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