Flemming forced to drop plan to close two children’s centres

The council has been forced to back down from cost-cutting proposals, including closures, that will have impacted thousands of the borough’s children and the families.

Reprieved, for now: the children’s centre at Purley Oaks Primary School

The council wanted to reduce its spend on its Best Start Children’s Centres by £1million per year and close two of its 11 centres, at Shirley and Purley Oaks, to help balance the Town Hall books after the calamitous mismanagement under discredited council leader Tony Newman and CEO Jo “Negreedy” Negrini.

But a hostile reaction to a public consultation has forced the current leadership at the cash-strapped council to abandon its proposals.

“Croydon Council will continue to provide much-valued help and support for families at all children’s centre locations – including Shirley and Purley Oaks,” read a statement issued by the propaganda department in Fisher’s Folly last night.

According to the statement, which will have been approved by Alisa Flemming, the gaffe-prone council cabinet member for children, it seems that before they held the consultation the council had not realised how important it is for families “to be able to access support locally”.

“The council will make the savings it needs to make by changing the way it works to reduce management costs and reducing the frequency of some sessions at each site,” the council said, without providing any detail on those changes.

“Supporting children and families, particularly our most vulnerable, is an absolute priority for us and our Best Start children’s centres are right at the heart of this,” said Flemming, who just two months ago had proposed cutting those very services and closing two of the centres.

Alisa Flemming: forced to abandon her planned cuts

According to one of the parents who campaigned against the closures, the council’s announcement is, under the circumstances, “the best result for Purley Oaks and Shirley that could be imagined”.

They said, “That’s at least a better result than the original plan, so I’m grateful that the council has listened really.

“The catch is that there’s no commitment in the announcement to what level of children’s service that will be provided.

“The ‘reduction in the frequency of some services’ seems a little on the worryingly vague side.

“I’m also not convinced what level of management savings can be made, given the overheads are low with admin performed by the centre’s front of house staff.”

This is the second time that the council has been forced to step back from making cuts to community services. A previous money-saving scheme to close up to five of the borough’s 13 public libraries was also abandoned following a public outcry. A second libraries consultation, offering a second-rate service using outsourcing and volunteer-run libraries, closed this week.

Read more: Ofsted discover ‘worrying signs’ of cuts on children’s services
Read more: Council Tax-payers pay for politicians’ game of cat-and-mouse
Read more: Bankrupt borough could overspend by millions again this year

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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