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Plans to lease out children’s centres in Norfolk agreed by county council

Members of Norfolk County Council’s cabinet have agreed to lease out 13 of the county’s children’s centres to charity Action for Children at its meeting this week.

The company won the contract to provide children’s services in Norfolk earlier this year, after the county council approved plans to close 38 of the county’s children’s centres in January.

These centres are due to close down and be used for other functions at the end of October.

Norfolk County Council's headquarters
Norfolk County Council's headquarters

And on Monday, the authority agreed to lease 13 sites to Action for Children, including centres in Downham, Fakenham and Swaffham.

Until outstanding legal issues are resolved over the site at Nar in South Lynn – St Michael’s Children’s Centre – it will remain as a tenancy at will, but the council hopes to confirm this lease in the future.

Greg Peck, cabinet member for commercial services and asset management, said: “I think this is extremely good news because when the decision was originally made on children’s centres and our outreach programme, I know there was some scepticism in the press and elsewhere that we were going to deliver on this but I think this proves that we are delivering on what we promised.”

A further eight buildings, which will no longer be used as children’s centres, will be let out to third-party providers, after the cabinet also agreed to this proposal.

Cabinet member for children’s services, John Fisher said: “This is the first step to confirm that these 13, and there shortly will be 14, premises are leased out to Action for Children who are taking on the service and also to confirm that, I’ve spoken to a number of officers, and we are on track to deliver, I believe, a much better service to those families in need that have been difficult to access in the past.”

He added: “We have also completed a number of transactions for a number of the other remaining centres to continue providing 0-5 care and support.”

Despite criticism over deciding to close 38 of the 53 centres, the council says the new service will “bring support out into the community”.

Councillor Tom FitzPatrick said: “One of those centres is in my division of Fakenham and I’m very pleased to see the continuation of the service and, taking into account the other changes, I think it will be an enhanced service for the people of my division.”

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