THURROCK Labour has claimed that the ruling Conservative administration has made a dramatic U-Turn over controversial plans to close children’s centres in Thurrock.
In the original proposals (back in October), it was proposed that five centres would close close (Aveley, Stanford-le-Hope, East Tilbury, Chafford Hundred, Brisbane House, Tilbury).
But in a paper presented last night (Feb 1st) it appears that only East Tilbury and Chafford Hundred will close.
The proposals will come as good news for many parents. There were a number of demonstrations against the closures and a number of questions asked at a recent council meeting.
Labour Councillor Oliver Gerrish has labelled the whole process a “complete shambles”.
Councillor Gerrish said “The Administration has flip-flopped all over the place on this proposal. First they said the savings were from sacking around half the staff, then the Portfolio Holder claimed that they were ‘bricks and mortar’ savings on four buildings. Now they are bowing to pressure and keeping more centres open. The whole process has been a complete shambles.”
Speaking on the Tory U-turn, Cllr Gerrish continued “It looks like Thurrock Labour and the hundreds of local parents who protested or responded to the consultation have been successful in forcing the Administration to abandon part of their plan to close four Children’s Centres. This is very welcome news for many parents across the borough, but it seems that some aspects of the damaging plans will still go forward.”
Speaking after attending the meeting on Wednesday (1st Feb) Cllr Gerrish added: “I’m appalled at the quality of the report that was submitted for consideration at the committee. It did not give any details on the financial implications of the updated proposals, it was very unclear on the full impact on staff, it didn’t even detail the full impact on each of the Children’s Centres site by site. The Administration are still not making plain exactly what will be delivered, so we need to remain very vigilant.”
Councillor Gerrish concluded “I’m calling on the Administration to abandon these plans entirely. At no time have members been given adequate information to perform a detailed review of the service. It’s time to go back to the drawing board and start again.”
A Thurrock Council spokesperson said: “The Portfolio Holder for Education and Health announced in October 2016 that there would be a combined saving of £1.6 million from the service changes – £400,000 saved from buildings and £1.2 million from redesigning the currently fragmented services. This has not changed.
“The purpose of the reforms is to provide more families in Thurrock with better integrated services from fewer buildings – this was the case when the new service was announced and still remains the case.
“Currently, only 75 per cent of families engage with the services they would benefit from – through outreach and targeted help this will increase to over 90 per cent.