Poll: Decision on the future of Suffolk’s children’s centres is pushed back to January

Children's centre

Children's centre - Credit: PA

A decision on the future of children’s centres in Suffolk has been pushed back until the beginning of next year.

A verdict on the future of children’s centres in Suffolk has been pushed back until the beginning of next year.

Suffolk County Council agreed to review its provision of the centres back in July and held a consultation to gather the views of people using them.

That ran for 12 weeks from July 24 to October 16 this year, with a decision initially expected at the council’s cabinet meeting on December 9. The changes, if agreed, would have been brought in from April 2015.

The proposed changes included merging some of the centres, like the Brett River children’s centre in Hadleigh, to try and save money.

As well as taking part in the consultation parents whose children use the service staged meetings and protests to highlight the importance of the centres.

Now the county council has said its decision, originally due this month, will be made in January.

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Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said: “Having reviewed the detail of the proposed cabinet paper relating to the future of children’s centre services, I believe there is additional work required to further develop some of the proposals.

“In addition, the report produced by (former Labour minister for welfare reform) Frank Field is more detailed than expected. It is important that the content of the report has been fully digested before we publish proposals.

“Therefore I have taken the logical decision of having the paper relisted for the January cabinet meeting.

“I want to ensure that any changes we make maximise opportunities to positively influence the lives of children and their families. I am sure they will understand the need to take more time to enable this to happen.”

However Labour’s parliamentary candidate for South Suffolk Jane Basham, who has been campaigning against the proposed changes in Hadleigh and other areas in the constituency, said Mr Jones’ comments did not go far enough.

She said: “Putting back the decision to January is a further example of a shambolic process which causes more uncertainty for those who rely on and work in children’s centre services.

“I am disappointed that Gordon Jones’ statement shows no sign that he is taking into account the groundswell of opinion by local people to keep our children’s centres open.”

The council’s original proposal, as outlined in a booklet published as part of the consultation, was to merge nine children’s centres with others in the county.

Even though the date for the decision has been pushed back any changes agreed would still be implemented from April.