Vote referral on future of centres

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The fate of children’s centres in Glemsford and Hadleigh remains undecided after a scrutiny committee referred the decision back to the county council’s cabinet.

The decision to close nine centres across the county was initially made just over three weeks ago, despite widespread anger from campaigners.

But a scrutiny committee call-in was enacted by five Labour county councillors, who felt the decision went against the council’s duty to provide children’s centres where there is sufficient public need.

On Wednesday, scrutiny committee chairman James Finch decided to refer the closure decision back to the cabinet after a split vote.

Labour parliamentary candidate Jane Basham, who has campaigned with parents who rely on the service, is not holding out hope that cabinet members will vote any differently.

“I was surprised,” she said. “But I don’t think we should be too optimistic because it’s going back to the same decision makers who made the decision to close the centres.

“They had the opportunity to vote to keep them open and they didn’t.”

Last week, council members voted in favour of this year’s budget, which highlights £38.2million of savings – including a saving of £5.1million from reviewing children’s services.

The issue is scheduled to go before the cabinet for a second time on Tuesday.

Mrs Basham added: “I would encourage people and users of the service to go along to the cabinet meeting and make sure councillors know the impact of the decision they are taking on people across Suffolk.”

Scrutiny chairman Mr Finch said the role of the committee was to review the process in reaching a decision, rather than the decision itself.

He said: “Having heard all of the evidence, the committee felt that there was sufficient grounds for the matter to be referred back to cabinet.”