‘Closure of children’s centre would have big impact on community’

Ilkley Gazette: Little Lane Children's Centre in Ilkley Little Lane Children's Centre in Ilkley

A mum battling cancer is among those who have joined a campaign to prevent the closure of Ilkley’s children centre.

The mum, who did not want to be named, said: “I am currently battling cancer and I really don’t know how I’d have managed without the practical help the children’s centre has given me and my daughter. Ilkley needs this service as much as anywhere else!”

She has joined a campaign to Save Little Lane Children’s Centre after it emerged its future was under threat due to Bradford Council’s budget proposals which include plans to close seven children’s centres across the district with a “lower need”.

Those under threat include the children’s centre in Little Lane, Ilkley, and also Menston and Burley Children’s Centre, which only opened three years ago.

Ilkley mum Adele Senior, who attends the centre with her one-year-old son has launched the campaign. She said: “I was shocked to find out about the proposed funding cuts to children’s centres across the district and that this would mean the possible closure of Little Lane.

“It’s a highly-valued resource amongst a local community of babies, children, parents, grandparents and carers, where children can develop their language, physical, mental and creative skills in a safe and supportive environment.

“The closure of Little Lane would be a great loss to the Ilkley community. The changes are likely to have a significant impact upon vulnerable families and children with special needs and will cause financial hardship as families will have to travel to core centres outside of Ilkley to participate in activities and receive appropriate support.”

Bradford Council has now started a public consultation on proposals which set out how the centres would operate in the future to meet the need for a proposed budget reduction of £2.4 million by 2016. A series of events across the district will give people the opportunity to comment on proposed changes. However, Ilkley children’s centre users have also been left frustrated by this process.

Adele added: “The public consultations are taking place over the busy Christmas period and unfortunately the venues were only published a week before the first meeting. Parents who use the centre are frustrated that not one of the consultations is actually taking place in Ilkley and we are inevitably going to struggle to attend the consultation venues, especially if you’re a mum with a young baby.

“All of the attendees at the first consultation in Shipley opposed the funding cuts and the Council’s plans to save £2.4 million by implementing drastic changes across children’s centres in the Bradford District.

“Many people were concerned about the Council’s lack of knowledge of what the centres actually do and the impact that the withdrawal of funding would have on children’s development and the mental health and wellbeing of mothers.”

Petitions to Save Ilkley’s Little Lane Children’s Centre are now available to sign at Booth’s kiosk, Ilkley Moor Medical Centre in Springs Lane, and Smooth Cafe until January 10.

The consultation survey can be filled in online at bradford.gov.uk/surveys/ childrenscentres/131203_rj_cc_consultation.htm People are also urged to attend public consultation meetings and write to their local MP via findyourmp. parliament.uk.

For more information on the campaign go to the Save Ilkley’s Little Lane Children’s Centre Facebook group Councillor Ralph Berry, executive member for Children’s Services at Bradford Council, said: “We need to make sure that we use the resources which will be available to us in the future as effectively as we can, and this consultation is an important way of assessing what members of the public see as important.

“The events are open to everyone, and we really want to hear your views, so I’d urge people to come along to one of the events and complete the online consultation questionnaire.”

The consultation closes on January 17.

Ilkley’s MP Kris Hopkins who, in his role as Housing Minister, this week handed over almost £20m to Bradford Council as reward for its contribution to building new homes, said he believed some of the money could be used to save Ilkley’s Children’s Centre. He said: “The New Homes Bonus rewards local authorities for helping to deliver much-needed housing and Bradford Council has received a significant level of grant funding for its own contribution. It is free to spend the money any way it wishes to benefit the local community – whether that’s supporting frontline services, providing new facilities or freezing council tax.

“Given that my constituents have more than played their part in enabling new housing projects to be progressed, I would expect them to receive their rightful share of the rewards.

“Ilkley Children’s Centre is a very valued facility in the town and, whilst difficult choices will have to be made in the budget process, I believe the Centre’s retention should come very high on the list when Bradford Council meets to take its final decisions.”

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