Cambridgeshire County Councillors clash over ‘closures’ of county’s children’s centres

East Cambs and Cambridgeshire County councillor Anna Bailey (left) has hit out at Liberal Democrat l

East Cambs and Cambridgeshire County councillor Anna Bailey (left) has hit out at Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Lucy Nethsingha (right) for claiming that the Conservatives will close a "huge number" of children's centres in Cambridgeshire. - Credit: Archant

East Cambs District and Cambridgeshire County Councillor Anna Bailey has hit out at the local leader of the Liberal Democrats for saying that the Conservatives are behind the closure of a number of children’s centres in Cambridgeshire.

Newnham councillor Lucy Nethsingha last week said she was “horrified” that the Conservatives had voted to close a “huge number” of children’s centres, whilst also accusing the party of “turning their backs” on £1 million of funding from Arts Council England.

But, in a letter to this newspaper, Cllr Bailey has rejected those claims, saying her party has in fact proposed to add new children’s centres in Ely.

She said: “I am dismayed by the irresponsible way certain people have chosen to portray the children’s centre proposals to the public, which in many cases has been a gross distortion of the truth and has frightened people into believing that they will lose frontline services in their local area.

“The day before the County Council debate on children’s centres I received an email which began: “Please vote against the closure of Ely’s children’s centre...”

“Quite the opposite of closure - in Ely the proposal is to add new locations - Ely Library, the Scout Hut, the Ely City Church - in which to run sessions in addition to retaining the children’s centre at Spring Meadow. This will result in more sessions for more people in more locations meaning more local access and more opportunity for staff to work with new families.

“The Lib Dems in particular have run a relentless campaign full of scare-mongering content and distorted facts.

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“Ironically, Cllr Amanada Taylor who has been tweeting about the closure of 19 children’s centres has also stated in her blog that “it’s vital for children’s services to be delivered in the community, near where people live...” and of course that is exactly what the proposals will deliver.”

Cllr Bailey also dismissed Lib Dem councillor Lorna Dupre’s claims that the Sutton children’s centre at The Brook would also be closing.

“The reality for Sutton is this - all children’s centre sessions that are currently running will continue to run from the same building, the health worker that works out of the building will remain there, there will be increased nursery provision that the community needs and wants running from within the building, and there will be new outreach sessions running in nearby villages - reaching more families in more locations that need services,” she added.

“I do not view that as a closure of the children’s centre, and nor do I believe for one minute that the people of Sutton will experience it as that.

“The plans aim to take out unnecessary running costs of buildings, but will not result in loss of children’s centre sessions and services to residents. This is about maximising contact with families, not spending money unnecessarily on managing buildings.

“The funding of front line delivery services, which are the actual children centre sessions and outreach services, are increasing from £2.56m to £2.63m, which means more sessions in more places for more families.

“I want residents to be reassured that their children’s centre sessions will continue and that for many residents they will also be able to access sessions in new places closer to where they live.”