The fight back has begun against plans to replace children centres with ‘family hubs’ as part of a county council savings plan.
Warwickshire County Council, which is now made up of a large majority of Conservative councillors following the local elections in May, last week voted in favour of putting the plan out to public consultation.
If it goes ahead, the plan would lead to the 39 children’s centres across the area being replaced by 12 community hubs with three of those being at existing sites in Lillington, Sydenham and Westgate in Warwick.
The centres in the Warwick District which would be subject to reassessment including alternative options and potential closure would be Kenilworth, Kingsway, Newburgh, St John’s and Whitnash.
This week, Labour Party member Jim Ellis of Rugby used the change.org website to launch a petition against the plans which says: “The Warwickshire County Labour group are extremely concerned about the Tory administration’s proposals to close all of the children’s centres across Warwickshire in 2018.
“The Labour group is alarmed that without this layer of support and safeguarding, many children may slip through the net and be at much greater risk of being taken into the care system without children’s centre support.
“There are also proposed staffing cuts of support staff who currently support priority families.
“Which almost certainly lead to increasing numbers of children been taken into care which will have major financial implications that the Tories seem to have overlooked.”
Council leader Izzi Seccombe (Con, Stour and the Vale) has said the plan is part of the budget agreed between the Conservatives and Labour councillors in February but the opposition group say they had agreed a “zero per cent cut” for this financial year and that any service changes would be part of future financial plans laid out by the new administration.
Cllr Seccombe said: “The proposals being put forward to reshape our services for 0-5 year olds were part of the budget process voted for by the council in February.
“We were clear that we are not looking to stop services for children and families.
“This is an opportunity to look at how we provide the right services throughout Warwickshire that meet the needs of our residents.
“The proposals look at evolving 12 of the 39 centres into family hubs to offer direct targeted support at locations where we have identified the greatest level of need.
“If we do not make change, we are in danger of diluting the offer where the need is greatest.
“Across Warwickshire, we will explore any opportunities within the local community to work with local providers and volunteers to continue to offer local, sustainable and responsive provision.
“The challenges faced by our families change continually and our services need to evolve alongside this.
“We need to make changes to ensure that they are adaptable enough to offer the right level of support at the right place and at the right time.”
The consultation document will be published on Monday.