Doubts emerge over consultation

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Sudbury town councillors have expressed anger and frustration at the county council’s decision to review specialist support centres.

The month-long public consultation over the future of the facilities, including one at St Gregory Primary School in Sudbury, began on Monday.

The centres, which are located in mainstream schools, provide specialist support for children with complex learning difficulties.

At a Sudbury Town Council meeting on Tuesday, members expressed their concern for the future of the service, after Suffolk County Council voted to also close nine children’s centres.

The cabinet decision was made after a three-month public consultation in which the overwhelming majority of respondents were against the council’s proposal.

Sudbury town councillor Russell Smith described the decision as “absolutely outrageous”.

He added: “When you do a consultation, if 75 per cent of professionals say this is a bad idea and still you ignore it, what is the point of a consultation?

“As far as I can understand, if you go out and ask a question, you have to do it with an open mind. We need to fundamentally review how these consultations work.”

Fellow town councillor Lesley Ford-Platt, who is chairman of St Gregory’s board of governors, urged people to respond to the consultation to make the strength of public feeling heard.

“You just have to be someone who cares about these vulnerable children,” she said, explaining that anyone can reply to the consultation, regardless of whether they are a parent.

“They are going to try to close them whatever we do. We have to kick-up a stink to stop it happening.”

A county council spokesman assured parents that the authority was not reducing its level of investment in inclusive education, but the review was a statutory duty.

He said: “We aim to extend the range of targeted and specialist support made available to children and young people.”