Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting ECHONEWS to 80360, or email us Click here for details »
Last-ditch pleas fail to save kids’ centres in Southend
THREE children’s centres will close after desperate last-ditch calls to save them were rejected.
Southend Council’s cabinet on Tuesday agreed to go ahead with the closure of Hamstel Children’s Centre, in Hamstel Road, Southchurch, Leigh children’s centre, in Pavilion Drive, and Shoebury children’s centre in Delaware Road.
The controversial closures will save the council £224,000 over two years and James Courtenay, councillor for children and learning, attempted to justify the decisions.
He said: “We’re in difficult times financially. If things were different, we wouldn’t be looking to make this level of reorganisation.
We’ve got a responsibility to make these savings, which were voted for in the budget.
“These are mergers rather than closures. We’re not just cutting the funding in half for our provision.”
Hamstel, the second largest children’s centre in Southend and used by 1,599 children between April and December last year, will now be merged with Temple Sutton Children’s Centre, which itself was only saved after 2,440 people backed it with a petition.
Leigh will be merged with Blenheim children’s centre, in Blenheim Chase, and Shoebury with Friar’s children’s centre, in Constable Way, Shoebury.
Yet a committee of councillors, which included some Conservatives, urged the cabinet to reconsider the closures of the Leigh and Shoebury centres.
But Mr Courtenay said: “Noone has come up with any alternative way to make the savings.”
Cabinet member Tony Cox, referring to the consultation which asked which centres the public would prefer to remain open, said: “We get accused of not listening to public opinion, but we’re actually doing what the public asked us to do in the consultation.”
He added: “I can honestly say this summer I knocked on 600 doors in Shoebury and not once has the issue of children’s centres come up.”
A MUM is furious at the decision to scrap the children’s centres.
Caitlin Mander, 25, has been taking her son, Callum, 18 months, to Hamstel children’s centre once a week since he was three weeks old.
Caitlin, of South Avenue, Southend, said: “It’s illogical the council would close one of the most popular children’s centres. I still attend the breastfeeding group there once a week, and it’s a brilliant social event as well as educational.
I’ve taken so many courses I could never have afforded, such as paediatric first aid, baby massage, and a healthy eating course.”
Caitlin says she thinks the increased use of other services as a result of the closure will cost the council more than if it kept the centre running.
SOUTHEND Council voted to reduce its children’s centre budget by £224,000 over the next two years in February.
Talks were held with providers, schools and children’s centres leading to proposals to close Shoebury, Leigh and either Hamstel or Temple Sutton children’s centres. Parents collected 439 signatures to save Hamstel, but were trumped by the 2,440 collected from Temple Sutton.
Another 295 children from Temple Sutton wrote to the council opposing the plan.
A group of councillors, including Tories Mark Flewitt and Sally Carr, voted for the Tory cabinet to reconsider the closure plans in July. Those calls were rejected on Tuesday.
Comments are closed on this article.