Threatened children's centre to stay open as parish council steps forward
PUBLISHED: 12:00 26 November 2018
Vital services for village families have been secured for years to come after a deal was struck to save a children's centre threatened with closure.
Banwell, Winscombe and Sandford Children’s Centre – based in Banwell’s West Street – will continue to provide support to families until at least 2020 after an agreement was reached between Banwell Parish Council and North Somerset Council.
North Somerset wanted to make sweeping cuts to the service district-wide after a money-saving review of the district’s children’s services earlier this year led to £135,000 being shaved off its budget, amid dwindling Government funding.
The unitary authority, which oversees children’s services in the area, in particular hoped to reduce the annual £26,000 rent bill it paid the parish council.
Services in Banwell would have been ‘significantly reduced’, North Somerset admitted, but the parish council has stepped in to ensure its children centre survives.
As reported by the Mercury in March, the parish council called a village meeting with children’s services bosses from the unitary authority to try to limit the impact on vulnerable families, and after months of negotiations a deal to prevent the loss of the provision has been inked.
Support for the 121 families with children younger than five years old in the villages will be available, and health clinics, weekly stay-and-play sessions, baby massage and first aid courses are also among the services on offer.
The parish council has relocated to the children’s centre from the village hall, in Westfield Crescent, as part of the deal – and it has also obliged with the North Somerset’s request for reduced rent.
A North Somerset spokesman said: “North Somerset and Banwell Parish Council have been working together to support the continuation of services currently offered by Banwell, Winscombe and Sandford Children’s Centre.
“The children’s centre site is owned by Banwell Parish Council and it has agreed to take over the running of the building, saving North Somerset Council money on annual rent.
“This will allow the current services delivered by the children’s centre to continue on the same site, providing continuity for all families with children under the age of five.”