Knutton children’s centre saved from closure following protests

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19 Jan 2015

Knutton's popular children’s centre has been saved from closure by Staffordshire County Council following a campaign of opposition supported by Newcastle’s Labour MP Paul Farrelly.

Mr Farrelly said he was delighted that the Council had performed a U-turn and had decided that the centre in Cemetery Road should now remain open. 

The Knutton centre is one of 11 sites that have survived a drastic ‘cull’ of early years services by the Conservative-run County Council.

The Knutton centre was among the first wave ‘Sure Start’ centres to open in Staffordshire under the last Labour Government and was one of many buildings and services recommended for cuts and closures by the Council.

But the Council has now backed down in the face of a huge outcry by parents and has instead announced that from April it will keep the Knutton centre open as a ‘designated’ centre providing a wider range of family services, including support for older children as well as toddlers. 

Elsewhere in the county, however, 11 children’s centres will close altogether and services will transfer to neighbouring primary schools. In Newcastle the children’s centres at Crackley Bank Primary, Hempstalls Primary and Oaklands, Porthill, will be integrated into the schools’ existing under-fives provision.

The Council will close the children’s centre at Madeley and will transfer some other early years services to local libraries in Audley and Clayton. 

The shake-up will help save £3million on the Council’s family support services budget and be implemented from April 2015, subject to final approval by the authority’s controlling Cabinet.

Mr Farrelly said: “I’m delighted that the Knutton centre is staying open. This is a victory for all those families who put forward a convincing case to demonstrate how important its services are to toddlers and mums. It’s vital that local families are able to go on benefiting from such a great service.” 

When the proposals were first announced, Mr Farrelly also expressed concerns about whether the decision to transfer the running of children’s services to local primary schools would be supported by extra resources.

“I’ve met some of the heads who are directly affected, however, and they are confident that they are best placed to provide early years services, alongside their current nurseries,” he said.

“We are fortunate in having such excellent primary school provision in Newcastle and I’m sure that early years provision will be in good hands. 

“It’s essential, too, that the County Council ensures that private providers, such as the excellent Hedgehogs Playgroup at Hempstalls, are found proper alternative accommodation so that parents and their toddlers don’t miss out,” he added. 

Paul is pictured with Hempstalls’ headteacher, Mrs Lynne Bennett, and school pupils during his recent visit.