Councillor ‘disgusted’ over comments about new Notts children’s home

A Conservative councillor called comments from an Ashfield Independents representative ‘repulsive and morally repugnant’ after he referenced mine closures while describing Nottinghamshire Council’s approach to spending.

By Anna Whittaker
Monday, 17th January 2022, 5:58 pm

The exchange took place during a council children and young people’s committee meeting, while councillors were debating how much should be spent on new children’s homes.

The council’s finance committee approved four new homes last week, including a property on Saville Road, Skegby, as one of the new two-bedroom houses.

The new plans come after Minster View Children’s Home in Southwell was permanently closed by the council because it was judged to be an outdated facility.

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Coun Andy Meakin, Nottinghamshire Council member for Kirkby North.

Coun Andy Meakin, Ashfield Independents member for Kirkby North, questioned the suitability of the Saville Road site, saying the average house price there is more than the average for Sutton.

Referencing the committee’s overspend, he said: “It’s like you’re partying like 1999 – but the reality is that it’s 1984 and the pits have just closed.”

Coun Matt Barney said he found the comments ‘disgusting’.

Coun Meakin said: “I appreciate we need to house vulnerable children in areas where they feel safe. We all heard comments made by senior Conservative councillors last year that we need to place children in posh areas – to show them how the other half live.

“Saville Close is populated by elderly residents, yes, there is a nearby primary school, but the nearest secondary school is two miles away. There are very few shops, the town centre of Sutton is too far away and the public transport links are few and far between.

“What due diligence do we do to ensure the locations for our children’s homes are bought at the best price but are also located in areas where the infrastructure can support them?”

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Coun Barney said: “To make political comments and relate the miners, class and wealth structures to these most vulnerable and needy kids, I find quite repulsive and morally repugnant.

“I speak so passionately because what matters is this authority puts our arms of love and care around each one of these individuals.

“This is not a party political issue and to toss it into this agenda and politicise it, I find repulsive.

“The best is what I seek for those children, not the lowest common denominator property value in whatever street in whatever town.”

Coun Michelle Welsh, Labour, said: “While I understand what we are saying about being cost effective, the most important thing is finding somewhere safe for them to live and where they can be part of that community.

“We have got think about the bigger picture too. These children should be an absolute priority to us.”

Laurence Jones, council commissioning and resources service director, said: “Even if we have a home for two children, often that means we need additional space for offices for staff and sometimes sleeping rooms.

“The size of the homes and planning considerations does mean these are often larger properties and that is necessary for the model.

“We are limited in Nottinghamshire as to those homes, particularly within the geographical area with the children coming into care, which is often disproportionately the west of the county.”

Councillors voted in favour of the recommendations to disestablish posts from Minster View and agree new posts for future children’s homes in the county.

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