Bid to save Melton children’s centres from closure is blocked

The Edge in Melton, venue for one of the children's centres which could be closed by the county council to streamline family support services EMN-180222-153806001
The Edge in Melton, venue for one of the children's centres which could be closed by the county council to streamline family support services EMN-180222-153806001
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A desperate bid to save Melton’s children’s centres from closure was blocked at a County Hall budget meeting yesterday (Wednesday)

The Liberal Democrats on Leicestershire County Council called for funding to be guaranteed for the popular family services in an amendment to the suggested budget for the next four years.

A public consultation is currently being held into the council’s plans to save £3.8 million by streamlining its ‘early help’ services through reducing the number of support buildings across the county from 40 to only 15.

If the plans are approved, vulnerable families will no longer be supported at The Cove, in Sysonby Street, The Edge, on Dalby Road, and Fairmead, on Drummond Walk and they would instead all have to attend a new set-up at Venture House in the town.

Yesterday’s amendment, aimed at ensuring funding to keep the existing number of centres, was voted down by members of the Conservative-run council.

A spokesperson for the action group Save Our Children’s Centres (SOCC) Leicestershire said: “While this is disappointing securing funding now was always a long shot and budgets can be changed.

“We would encourage people to sign the petition, complete the consultation if you haven’t done so already, email the consultation with your opinions, and lobby your local councilors via email and telephone.

“They have to be made aware how important these centres are.

“This fight continues, we will be inviting councillors and officers to local meetings, holding social media storms, handing in the petition and much more.”

The county council agreed at the meeting to savings of £50million, an injection of an extra £41million into social care and to increase its share of the Council Tax by 5.99 per cent to invest in valued services.

Their budget also includes a £289million capital spend on roads, schools, property investment and broadband – the authority’s biggest ever four-year programme.

The £16million generated from the tax hike will be ploughed into fixing pot holes, mending roads and supporting vulnerable people, among other things.

Deputy council leader, Councillor Byron Rhodes, said: “In simple terms, demands on councils’ budgets are continuing to outstrip income.

“Planning ahead has enabled us to save £178million since 2010, putting us on a sound footing, and providing services to other public sector bodies and investing in property has opened up new income streams.

“But saving another £50million, coupled with growing service pressures, means that tough choices remain.

“Leicestershire is a high-performing, low-funded council, but chronically low government funding threatens our future performance.

“Funding reform unlocks more money for Leicestershire and that’s why we’re doing everything we can to secure a fair deal for our tax payers.”

Go online at www.leicestershire.gov.uk/earlyhelp to make your comments on the consultation into County Hall’s plans to streamline its ‘early help’ services, including the closure of the three existing children’s centres and concentrating services on just one venue.