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No children's centre closures in Suffolk without full public consultation, say council chiefs

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No children’s centres will be closed in Suffolk without a full consultation with the public, Conservatives have said.

Last week sources indicated that a cross-party task group reviewing the future of children’s services at Suffolk County Council was considering closure of as many as half among its options.

That prompted the leaders of the Labour and Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent groups to remove their councillors from the policy development panel group, stating that 'rather than improving family services, the focus is now solely on closing children’s centres'.

Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich (8631669)
Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich (8631669)

Conservative chiefs at the county council have already stressed that no decision has been made and that the PDP continues to consider all options, and has now confirmed that any changes the PDP recommends will be assessed with a full public consultation.

Gordon Jones, Conservative cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills, said: “With any change there is a full consultation, that is recognised.

“Equally, we could put a little bit more fact and if there are any proposals explain some of the thinking behind them.

“We must remember that the buildings don’t deliver the services, it’s people who do.”

With any change there is a full consultation, that is recognised - Gordon Jones

Mr Jones said: “I think what parents should be concerned about at the moment, and indeed staff, is the leaking of what hopefully were open and frank discussions of the remodelling of the provision.

“Since the late 1990s when the children’s centres were first set up things have changed.

“Suffolk County Council have a much closer working relationship with the CCGs [clinical commissioning groups], we have the alliance working implemented, we now have health visitors in house and we are now remodelling the 0-19 service which has come in house.

“Things have changed and we want to see which the best model is to continue, not only for the present but for the future.”

Mr Jones said the PDP was 'not a decision making body' and that it presented proposals and recommendations which the cabinet could then consider publicly.

He added: “The proposals have not yet been finalised by the PDP, and what is disappointing is the opposition parties have decided that they don’t want to be part of that proposal making.”

The Labour group launched a campaign today (April 15) calling for children’s centres to be saved.