Labour councillors storm out of fiesty meeting on future of Medway children’s centres

PUBLISHED: 14:30 21 July 2017 | UPDATED: 14:30 21 July 2017

Children's centres in Medway are under threat

Children's centres in Medway are under threat

Serban George

The council has controversially proposed the closure of 19 Sure Start centres across the district

Labour councillors dramatically stormed out of a council meeting this week as the row over the the future of children’s centres in Medway boiled over.

Before the meeting in Chatham on Thursday night, parents and campaigners protested outside the chamber at plans to close 19 Sure Start centres across the district and create four ‘super hubs’ in its place.

The hubs would combine children’s centre services for 0-5-year-olds, with early help teams who work with families and children who are aged five and upwards and the Conservative-controlled council says this means families would benefit from a whole host of services under one roof.

However, there has been hostility in response, with Labour frontbencher Angela Raynor even getting involved, describing the plans as “an absolute scandal”.

Labour had proposed a motion calling on the cabinet to give £55,000 of ward improvement funds back to the Sure Start budget in order to “help facilitate the transition to any new delivery model which may emerge after the consultation”.

However, Conservative councillors proposed an amendment, which read: “This council notes the pressure placed on Medway’s children’s centres and their important services by budgetary constraints.

“This council further notes that Medway Council has conducted extensive public consultation in relation to the provision of Sure Start centres in Medway.

“This council calls upon the cabinet to carefully evaluate the outcome of the consultation, and to respond in a way which takes account of the needs of service users.”

The amendement removed a description of the centres as “invaluable” and their services as “vital”.

As a result, opposition members slammed the amendment however and walked out of the chamber, refusing to take part in a vote.

The remaining councillors then passed the motion and the proposals will be discussed further next month at an overview and scrutiny committee meeting before the cabinet meets again on August 8 when a final decision is expected to be made.

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