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Children’s centres face hard cutbacks
A CHILDREN’S centre in Benfleet has been earmarked for closure as Essex County Council looks to save cash.
Essex County Council wants to scrap Little Treehouse children’s centre, which runs from Richmond Hall community centre, in Benfleet, as part of a bid to shave £2.5million off its children’s centre budget between 2014 and 2016.
It is the only centre run by the local authority in the town.
Hours will also be cut by up to 75 per cent at three other centres across Castle Point.
The council launched a public consultation yesterday about the future of its centres, with changes expected to come in next April.
All centres funded by the council run for 40 hours a week, but Little Acorns Children’s Centre, in Beresford Close, Hadleigh, will only open for ten hours under the proposals.
On Canvey, Little Tewkes, in Dovervelt Road, and Canvey Community children’s centre, based in Canvey Resource Centre, will see hours reduced to 15 a week.
The centres run by County Hall not only give advice on childcare, early learning and health, but are also a place for parents to receive employment help and family support.
Children who use Little Treehouse in High Road, Benfleet, would have to go to Thundersley and use Little Handprints children’s centre in Dark Lane, three miles away, if it is closed.
In a consultation document, Essex County Council said it was being closed because it had limited available facilities for families.
But Alan Bayley, Ukip county councillor for South Benfleet, said: “This is truly disgusting.
The impact on South Benfleet will be enormous.
“People having to travel three miles to another centre when Richmond Hall is so convenient for everyone in the area is really bad.
“No parents will say it is good to open a children’s centre for only ten hours a week instead of 40, it’s ridiculous.”
Dick Madden, county councillor responsible for families and children, said: “We have actively worked with our children’s centre providers tomake sure the impact this has on services is kept to a minimum.
“I truly believe this new flexible way of working, which focuses on services rather than sites, will mean the children’s centre staff will be able to provide the services families need and want.”
People have until Thursday, December 5 to have their say.
A list of centres affected and questionnaire is available at essex.gov.uk/childrenscentres
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