Liberal Democrats have launched a petition to save children's centres across Cambridgeshire, which are under threat of closure by the Conservative run council. You can sign the petition here.
Conservative councillors have (this week) voted to present the public with a plan to close 19 children’s centres across Cambridgeshire, including Linton, Papworth, Bassingbourn and Bar Hill. They will also reduce services in Histon, whilst services in Sawston and Melbourn are to move.
In Cambridge, the Tories will also close children’s centres at Fawcett, Homerton, Romsey Mill and Cherry Hinton, which they say are ‘not needed’. Families are expected to travel to other areas – eg Homerton families are directed to the Central Library in the city centre. Quite a distance if you are taking small children, and an extra cost if you have to pay bus fares or park in town.
The proposals have been met with anger and indignation by local people. A petition calling for a halt to the proposals has gained nearly 1,500 signatures in just a few days.
Amanda Taylor, our county councillor in Queen Edith's Cambridge, told the County Council’s Children & Young People Committee that:
“Children’s Centres not only support the excellent nursery education, but provide a range of vital services to families: baby clinics and benefits advice and, at the sharp end, they deal with cases of mental health and domestic abuse.
If these services are taken away, the needs will not disappear but will still have to be met, by the NHS, the police and the councils. The Council’s £1m saving will cost that and more to other services, as well as the cost to quality of life."
She said it was hard to see how families would be able to access services as easily if they have to travel, which would turn a short visit into a lengthy trip, and probably mean families wold have to pay for bus fares or parking. In practice, this is likely reduce the take-up from those who are in most need of the services.
To make matters worse, the council’s consultation will run through the school holidays, 17th July – 22nd September – the worst possible time for families.
Liberal Democrats on the committee asked for the proposals to be sent back for more work, and for the consultation to be delayed until the beginning of next term but were outvoted by the Conservatives, who voted as a bloc to go ahead.
These are exactly the kinds of unnecessary and devastating cuts to local services that the Liberal Democrats feared would happen after Conservative County Councillors refused to accept a Liberal Democrat proposal to raise additional money through a council tax rise.
The rise would have mean't just 45p a week for an average household, yet raised millions across the county - now children across the county will see their futures undermined.
We will continue to oppose the closure of children’s centres and to challenge the assumptions behind them. We will also continue to call for local services to be properly funded.
If you would like to collect signatures in person, here is a paper version of the petition.
Please return completed ones to Amanda at 41 Holbrook Road, Cambridge CB1 7SX.