CLO­SURE OF CHIL­DREN’S CEN­TRES PUT ON HOLD

Coun­cil says it will go back to con­sul­ta­tion on pro­pos­als

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE -

CON­TRO­VER­SIAL plans to re­place Buck­ing­hamshire’s 35 chil­dren’s cen­tres have been put on hold, in a move which is be­ing cel­e­brated by cam­paign­ers.

In a shock U-turn, Bucks County Coun­cil an­nounced on Wed­nes­day last week it has de­layed plans to re­place the county’s chil­dren’s cen­tres with nine “com­mu­nity team bases” un­der the Early Help scheme.

In­stead, planned pub­lic meet­ings have been can­celled and a new con­sul­ta­tion process has been launched, after the pre­vi­ous dis­cus­sions were branded “sham­bolic” by cam­paign­ers.

It is not clear ex­actly why BCC has halted plans. How­ever, cab­i­net mem- ber for chil­dren’s ser­vices, War­ren Whyte, said the “strength of feel­ing” among fam­i­lies has been recog­nised, and the con­sul­ta­tion needs to con­tinue.

Orig­i­nal plans were given the green light in Jan­uary, with the scheme ex­pected to launch at the begin­ning of June.

Leader of the Save Our Chil­dren’s Cen­tres cam­paign, Alka Dass, re­mains hope­ful the coun­cil will throw out the plans com­pletely.

She said: “I am ex­tremely pleased that Bucks County Coun­cil has de­cided to put the process on hold and con­sult fur­ther with res­i­dents.

“One needs to ask why at this stage they have de­cided to do this and have a new con­sul­ta­tion process, how­ever what­ever the rea­sons, we are glad that they will re-think this through.

“We want this done prop­erly and we want our views lis­tened to, we do not want to be ig­nored any­more and if truth be known, we want Bucks County Coun­cil to stop this process al­to­gether, to keep our chil­dren’s cen­tres open and to re-in­vest into our chil­dren’s cen­tres and make im­prove­ments if re­quired.”

The plans have been strongly op­posed by fam­i­lies, schools and coun­cil­lors, who have pre­vi­ously slammed BCC for a lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion re­gard­ing the early help scheme.

Cllr Whyte said new dates for pub­lic meet­ings will be an­nounced in due course: “I hope res­i­dents and fam­i­lies will feel re­as­sured that we are lis­ten­ing to their con­cerns and want to work with them to shape the sup­port.”

We recog­nise the strength of feel­ing amongst fam­i­lies and the lo­cal com­mu­nity about the changes we are propos­ing and want to con­tinue to have these dis­cus­sions.

“There­fore, we will con­sult fur­ther with res­i­dents. No pub­lic meet­ings will take place for the time be­ing, and we ex­pect to pub­li­cise new dates for these as part of the new con­sul­ta­tion process.”

Cam­paign­ers have been fight­ing to over­turn plans to close 35 chil­dren’s cen­tres across Bucks

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