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Well-used children's centre to cut hours
6:00am Monday 4th November 2013 in Echo News
A CHILDREN’S centre in Wickford, facingamassive cut in its hours, is the fourth most used facility in Essex, the Echo can reveal.
Earlier last month, Essex County Council announced it was looking to scale back the majority of the 86 children’s centres it owns across the county, in a bid to save £2.5million from its budget.
But figures released to the paper from County Hall show the Triangle Children’s Centre – in line for a reduction in its opening hours from 44 to ten – had just fewer than 1,000 youngsters through its doors in just two months.
From March to May this year, it was the fourth best used centre in the county, according to data that County Hall has used to calculate how far to strip back its facilities.
Ukip county councillor Nigel le Gresley, who represents Wickford Crouch, said: “I’m horrified because children are the lifeblood of our country. County Hall has got its priorities all wrong.
“Reducing the hours by three quarters is appalling – and this is the only community centre in the middle of the town centre.
“My fear is that this building is in a prime location. Any thoughts by County Hall to remove this facility and sell the building and land for housing development will be very fiercely opposed.”
Several other children’s centres are facing having their opening hours slashed because of the plans, which have gone out to consultation.
About 55 per cent of youngsters under five in the catchment area are registered at the centre.
Highcliff Children’s Centre, in Rettendon View, will be the town’s main centre under the proposals, and it will see its opening hours raised from 40 a week to 50.
The leader of the opposition Labour group at County Hall, Julie Young, said: “These cuts are hitting families hardest with the bedroom tax, reduction in council tax support, cuts in the youth service and now children's centres.”
County Hall said it using a variety of data to make its decisions.
But the authority declined to respond to the Echo’s request for a comment on the Triangle.
The consultation can be viewed at essex.gov.uk/childrens centres
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