of Burnham-On-Sea's Octopus Children's Centre in jeopardy
future of Burnham-On-Sea's Octopus Children's Centre has been
thrown into jeopardy this week after Somerset County Council unveiled
a major cost-cutting initiative.
controversial restructuring plans will see the merger of many
of Somerset's existing children's centres with the aim of reducing
the overall number from 41 to 23.
spokesman for Somerset County Council told Burnham-On-Sea.com:
"Under the restructure, Highbridge will remain as a designated
Childrens Centre. Burnham will be de-designated, which means
it will no longer formally be a children's centre."
childrens centre services will still be provided in Burnham,
possibly in the same building but if not in another venue in the
County Councillor, Peter Burridge-Clayton, this week reassured
users of the Octopus Centre that they will be catered for.
is important to recognise this is about services, not buildings,"
he told Burnham-On-Sea.com. "It is the County Council's priority
to provide front-line support where it is most needed, and in
places where it can be easily accessed - whether that is a children's
centre, a library, a school hall or a community centre."
the case of the Octopus Centre, it covers a reach area of 24 square
miles. As of June 2013 there were 782 children aged 0-4 living
in the reach. None of those children live in the 30% most deprived
have been advised that discussions are ongoing with regard to
Burnham Infant School having more input into the running of the
centre. I am confident that Somerset County Council will maintain
quality services, and there will be no adverse impacts on local
Cllr Burridge-Clayton, right, added: "I have also been made
aware that under the new structure, parents will also be able
to access any centre in Somerset regardless of where they live
or work, rather than often being expected to access a centre in
their home catchment area."
the proposals have been criticised by some. Lib Dem Helen Groves
said the cutbacks are a "disgrace", adding: "The
County Council is closing vital services which will be greatly
missed by many users."
Council Chief Frances Nicholson is expected to approve the cuts
at a meeting on November 18th.
said: "I believe the restructure is what the service needs
to help the most vulnerable children and their families in the
long-term. This is about services, not buildings."
priority has to be to provide front-line support where it is most
needed, in places where it can be easily accessed - whether that
is a childrens centre, a library, a school hall or a community
were spending too much money on running services and not enough
on actually delivering them. We are putting that right and doubling
our spend on the front-line."
than 1,100 people took part in a consultation on the centres'
future earlier this year.
are currently 41 registered childrens centres in Somerset,
each with its own management, administration and Ofsted requirements.
the restructure, services would continue to be delivered from
151 locations but the number of designated childrens centres
would be reduced to 23. Some centres would have reduced opening
hours, depending on demand and some would merge.
will be able to access any centre in Somerset regardless of where
they live or work, rather than often being expected to access
a centre in their home catchment area.
Nicholson added: "I understand this has been a period of
great uncertainty, for staff, partners and most importantly families
who use our services and I apologise for that. But at the moment,
we have some centres and services that are under-used and others
not performing as well as they should be, and that must be addressed."
council has produced a draft decision paper - available
by clicking here - which will be discussed at a meeting of
the County Counci's scrutiny committee this Friday (November 15th)
in the Luttrell Room at County Hall at 9.30am.
From top - Burnham's Octopus Centre, Cllr Peter Burridge-Clayton
and Highbridge Children's Centre