Children’s centre under threat after council u-turn

Holts Childrens Centre is under threat. Photograph: Mark Bullimore.

Holts Childrens Centre is under threat. Photograph: Mark Bullimore. - Credit: Archant

A popular and well-regarded children's centre in Holt is now under threat after a U-turn by Norfolk County Council bosses.

Holt district councillor Maggie Prior. Picture: Archant Library

Holt district councillor Maggie Prior. Picture: Archant Library - Credit: Archant

In September, the council unveiled proposals to shut 46 of the 53 children's centres.

Council bosses said it would take services out of buildings and into the community.

Under those proposals Holt's Children's Centre would have been retained.

But in updated proposals, which would see 15 children's centres kept and 38 closed, three that were originally set to be retained, including Holt, would be closed.

The news has been criticised in the north Norfolk town.

Holt town mayor Maggie Prior said: 'I would totally disagree with that, as it does a lot of good.

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'It helps young parents and children in Holt, and would be a terrible shame to lose it. It's doing a great job, so why get rid of it?

'It's definitely something we would not want to see in Holt.

'We have got quite a lot of deprivation in Holt, which largely goes unrecognised.

'We need to keep all the facilities we have in Holt, and more.'

Norfolk County Council said it made changes after concerns were raised during consultation, which saw 1,600 people respond.

But opposition councillors say the proposals have 'more holes than Swiss cheese'.

Council leaders and bosses stress it is just one element of a £65m programme of transforming children's services – and people should look beyond the buildings. They say the 38 which would close as children's centres could remain open to provide services for children and families, with other groups and organisations providing services.

Stuart Dark, chairman of the council's children's services committee, said: 'I believe we can provide effective, targeted support to children and families, through outreach support in people's homes and venues across the county, plus 15 early childhood and family bases in the areas of highest need.'

But Mike Smith-Clare, Labour spokesman for children's services, said: 'That's not a strategy. It's got more holes than Swiss cheese.'

The matter will be discussed at a council meeting at County Hall on Tuesday 22nd January.

Holt Children's Centre did not respond to this newspaper's request for a comment.