People power prevails in Derbyshire children’s centres battle

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Plans to shut seven children’s centres across Derbyshire over the next year have been scrapped thanks to people power.

Derbyshire County Council will instead consider closing two of the centres completely while slashing the opening hours of ten others.

The move comes after a public consultation highlighted the importance of children’s centres, which provide a range of services including childcare and health advice.

Councillor Kevin Gillott, the council’s cabinet member for children and young people, said: “We asked Derbyshire residents for their thoughts, listened to what they said and did everything in our power to come up with proposals to keep as many centres and services going as possible.

“We’ve left no stone unturned in our mission to maintain children’s centres and their services for the people of Derbyshire.”

However, Cllr Gillott warned that the Labour-led authority – which must save £157million by 2018 – may have to close centres in future years if “devastating” Coalition Government cuts continue.

Under the new plans, which will be subject to a three-month consultation starting on October 8, Ashbourne and Duffield centres and their services would close completely. A council spokesman said: “They appear to have relatively low usage, cost a lot to run and are not in areas of greatest need.”

The buildings of Castle Gresley and Langwith children’s centres would shut but their services would continue in nearby sites. Services provided by Gamesely Children’s Centre would be transferred to Gamesley Early Excellence Centre across the road.

In addition, the consultation will seek residents’ views on reducing opening hours from five days a week to two days at Arkwright, Bakewell, Chapel-en-le-Frith, Coton-in-the-Elms, Crich, Killamarsh, Sandiacre, Tupton, West Hallam and Wirksworth children’s centres.

The council spokesman said: “Opening hours may be staggered at centres in particular areas so families could still access services they need within their community at times they are most likely to want to use them. Community groups would have the chance to hire rooms in the buildings when they are not being used to help generate income.”