Thanet Labour Party members and councillors have joined the campaign to keep two isle children’s centres open.
The group has created a map to show the impact of proposed cuts which will ean the closure of Callis Grange and Priory children’s centres.
Kent County Council (KCC) plans to save £6million by changing the way it provides community services.These include children’s centres and youth hubs, health visiting services and counselling for young people, services for adults with learning disabilities and council gateways.
Proposals include co-location of facilities, particularly in library buildings, new Family Hubs with multiple services for youngsters aged 0-19, more flexible outreach activities, reducing the number of permanent buildings and making the most of digital technologies. The aim is to reduce costs and carbon footprint and help balance the council’s budget. KCC faces a £50m budget deficit over the next year and the current backlog of maintenance costs on council buildings sits at £165m.
As well as the closure of Callis Grange and Priory – which is also home to Explorers Nursery -courses at Broadstairs Adult Education Centre are earmarked to end with a relocation to Broadstairs library and services for adults with learning disabilities will no longer be held at Hartsdown Leisure Centre but will be moved to proposed ‘community hub’ sites.
Labour members from Broadstairs, Jenny Matterface and Joanne Bright said:“The Callis Grange Children’s Centre is the only one in Broadstairs and, if closed, families in need of support would have to go to Margate to the Six Bells Centre or to Ramsgate Library.
“With a lower than average car ownership in Beacon Road Ward, those seeking help would have to use public transport from an area with a much reduced bus service and also would be incurring fares that would make a dent in the weekly budget.
“One mother told us she came here knowing no-one and the network she has now came from her involvement with the centre. We urge KCC to rethink this proposal.”
Kent County Cllr Karen Constantine said: “These children centres are absolutely vital. The idea that they can be closed, or picked up and combined with youth services or plonked into libraries is nonsense.
“Parents, carers and children alike depend on these centres which provide a lifeline. The support offered by children centres has a positive impact that lasts a lifetime.
“Local communities are literally up in arms about the proposed cuts to children’s services. The ruling Conservative Party at Kent County Council has deliberately targeted these facilities overlooking the needs based evidence and disregarding the glaring inequalities across Kent.
“All children matter, and in areas like Thanet we urgently need greater investment into children and young people services. These cuts are a slap in the face for local residents.”
KCC Cllr Barry Lewis for Margate said: “As usual, Kent County Council cuts affect East Kent more than they do West Kent. Which is totally wrong given that East Kent children are in more need of these services than prosperous parts of West Kent.”
Thanet Cllr Rob Yates added: “What astounded me was the lack of maps showing the impact of these cuts on the KCC consultation document, they must be embarrassed to show it. We’ve created this map so Thanet residents can see the impact these unnecessary closures will have in their area.”
Ward councillors Becky Wing and Tricia Austin (Green) and county councillor Trevor Shonk (Conservative) have also backed calls for Priory to be saved along with Ramsgate mayor Raushan Ara (Labour).
The proposals that affect Thanet are:
Shutting Callis Grange Children’s Centre with people directed to use Six Bells centre in Margate instead. For health visiting services people would need to go to the remaining children’s centres or use outreach services.
Shutting Priory Children’s Centre with alternatives of using a new proposed Community Hub at Ramsgate Library or going to Newlands Children’s Centre or Six Bells Children’s Centre.
Shutting services for adults with a learning disability currently held at Hartsdown Leisure Centre with nearest alternatives to be proposed hubs at Broadstairs and Cliftonville libraries or using Minnis Day Centre.
The closure of services at Broadstairs Adult Education Centre which will be relocated to Broadstairs library.
There will be community hub services running at some Thanet libraries.
Ramsgate Library – Family Hub, Library and Gateway
Cliftonville Library – Community Services for Adults with Learning Disabilities, Gateway and Library
Broadstairs Library – Community Services for Adults with Learning Disabilities, Library and Community Learning and Skills.
Kent County Council Leader Roger Gough said: “Residents value our community services and change is difficult. However, we do need to look to adapt and evolve to make the best use of the resources and funding we have available and safeguard against rising costs.
“This Community Service Model is an opportunity to use all of our knowledge and information to ensure services are where they most need to be, having the most positive impact and reaching people in the most effective way to complement and enhance how they are choosing to live in Kent.
“The scope is significant but it has to be. Changes would mean we would have a more manageable and affordable number of buildings across Kent, which would help us to continue providing services for people in a variety of ways.”
You can learn more about proposed changes www.kent.gov.uk/communityservicesconsultation
Views can be submitted from now until March 26.
People can also attend drop-in events
Monday 30 January 10am-1pm Margate Library, Cecil Street, Margate
Monday 20 February 4-8pm Six Bells Family Centre, 201 High Street, Margate