Union dismisses Norfolk children's centre consultation as 'sham' ahead of protest
Union leaders have dismissed consultations on the future of Norfolk’s children’s centres as a “sham”, as councillors prepare to consider calls to halt the entire process.
A protest is due to take place outside Norfolk County Council’s headquarters on Monday, while councillors debate two motions demanding the process is suspended.
But a senior figure in the ruling Conservative administration has insisted the authority will listen to people’s views.
Last month, the county council launched a consultation on plans which would see 46 of the county’s existing 53 children’s centres, including all but one in West Norfolk, shut.
The authority says it believes it can provide better services for the public in the community than from the existing centres.
But officials from the trade union Unison claim the consultation, which is due to run until early November, is meaningless because it does not re-consider proposals to halve the service’s budget from £10 million a year to £5 million.
Branch secretary Jonathan Dunning said: “This consultation is a sham if the council will not listen to other solutions instead of chopping the budget in half.
“Without the support centres provide, there’s every likelihood the number of referrals to social services will increase and more children will end up in care.
“This will cost the council significantly more than the £5m it’s trying to save.”
“We urge people to show their opposition to these dangerous proposals by joining the protest against them outside County Hall on Monday.”
Inside the chamber, motions proposed by Labour and the Liberal Democrats calling for the process to be suspended are due to be debated.
The Labour motion argues the proposals should have gone to committee first and an "honest conversation" should take place with the public.
But Snettisham councillor Stuart Dark, who is acting chairman of the county council’s children’s services committee, said: “I would ask people to read the consultation document, see what’s being proposed and on offer, and engage with the process.
“No decisions have been taken as of yet, and it’s key we listen to the effects it will have on people in their localities, in order to make the best decisions going forward.”
The consultation continues until November 12.