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Margaret Cooksey's speech seconding the motion on Children's Centres

Margaret CookseyMr Chairman, in seconding the motion, can I start by echoing the words written in the motion and spoken by Cllr Emma Norman in support of the wonderful staff at our centres and the amazing results they have achieved over the years.

Mr Chairman, the Surrey County Council consultation on this issue, like so many of their consultations, is difficult to navigate and is designed to frustrate those attempting to complete it, in order to achieve the result they require. I therefor think that it is imperative that this Council sends a very clear message to Surrey that the actions that they are proposing are not acceptable in any way.

Mr Chairman, the information regarding the funding cut does not appear in the consultation and it is important that we spell it out to residents of Mole Valley. It has been made clear at meetings with staff that there will be a 58% cut in funding. This on top of closing one of the centres and expecting the work to continue as an outreach service, which is far less than satisfactory. Not only that, but it has been made clear that Surrey want the remaining centre to extend their remit to include children up to age 11 rather than up to age 5 as at present. This is a sensible thing to do given that the children who have benefitted thus far are now reaching the age where the service would stop being able to support them. However, what other organisation would be expected to double their workload, and cover a much wider area, with less than half of the funding they currently receive. It makes absolutely no sense.

Mr Chairman, when the idea of children centres was first floated, I represented this council on a steering group which provided the blueprint for the work which has followed, and I am proud to have been involved in a small way in helping to form a service which has supported children and families in such a positive way ever since. I really could not bear to see a situation where all that good work was lost to the children we all know that we need to support.

Mr Chairman, in July this year this Council gave their wholehearted support to the work done at our children centres and resolved to try to persuade the County to change their threatened policy. Unfortunately, we are now at a crunch point and it is much more serious a situation than it seemed then. We do now need to redouble the efforts and bring our MPs on board to attempt to persuade central government that funding is urgently required by local government if such vital services as our children centres are to survive. I therefor ask all members to support this motion and send out a strong message that things have gone far enough and that austerity, as we predicted, is about to have dire consequences on our communities which could have lasting effects well into the future.

Thank you Mr Chairman.