Anger at Sure Start threats to Ashfield centres

Councillors in Ashfield have hit out at county council leaders for failing to protect Sure Start children's centres against mass closures.

Monday, 2nd October 2017, 2:32 pm
Updated Wednesday, 4th October 2017, 10:37 am

By refusing to commit to keeping the centres open, the ruling Conservative group on Nottinghamshire County Council could put 58 Ofsted-approved centres at risk across the county, including 12 in Ashfield and neighbouring Mansfield, which provide free, safe and professional childcare to deprived families.

In a stormy full county council meeting the motion, proposed by Councillor Tom Hollis, of Ashfield Independents, pledged to protect all centres across Nottinghamshire, but was denied.

Coun Hollis (pictured) said: “I’m absolutely furious, they are quite frankly trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes. It’s very clear they want to close them.”

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Coun Tom Hollis

He said if the leaders do not pledge to save them 11 out of the 12 local centres are likely to close.

He added: “They are great value for money and hardly cost the council anything. They only cost around £3,000 a year each and it’s one of the best things the council does.

“How we look after the poorest and most vulnerable in our society is a mark of a decent council.”

“These children’s centres are a lifeline to struggling children and families from poorer backgrounds.

Coun Tom Hollis

“In places like Medway in Kent the council recently voted to create four ‘superhubs’ by axing 19 centres.

“Most people I have spoken to could not imagine not being able to just pop to a centre nearby. Instead they could face a 45-minute bus journey with a baby.”

Across the country more than 350 Sure Start centres have closed since 2010. It was set up by the Labour government in the 1990s to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds before they started school.

The children’s centres provide a variety of services including day care, health care and nutrition and parent and toddler sessions for families with children under the age of five.

Councillor Helen Ann Smith supported the motion and said in her area the Sure Start centre serves some of the most in need people in the county from Skegby, Stanton Hill and Teversal.

She said: “If this were to close, it would devastate our community and that is why we want to change council policy and put a marker down that these services need to be protected and enhanced.

“We don’t want to scaremonger – but the fact remains that there is a real threat we could lose centres like this forever. We don’t want to sleepwalk into a situation where these centres are under threat.”