A row erupted between Burnham-On-Sea councillors last night (Monday) over the ‘privatisation’ of childrens centre services in Somerset.
Burnham Lib Dem town councillor Phil Harvey, right, spoke out during a debate at Monday night’s town council meeting about his concerns that Somerset County Council intends “to privatize” childrens centre services and public health services in the county.
He said: “There has been no public consultation on the possible contracting out – otherwise known as ‘privatisation’ – of these services and even front-line staff and opposition councillors were not told about it. They have found out by reading an advert online.”
“It states that the council is seeking to expressions of interest from organisations that might be interested in delivering health visiting, school nursing and early help services for childrens centres and troubled families.”
“The advert invites feedback from ‘market providers’ but there has been no proper consultation with the general public about this specific privatisation plan.”
Cllr Harvey added: “Fortunately, we can breathe a sigh of relief in our area as the changes to childrens centres will mean very little for Burnham and Highbridge since Highbridge is set to become a new family centre and the service should will be virtually unaltered.”
Burnham Conservative county councillor Peter Clayton, right, hit back: “What a highly politically motivated speech that was.”
“The County Council is simply exploring the options for the future – the full and accurate facts about the options are all freely and openly available. There is no ‘privatisation’ planned.”
But Cllr John Parkes fired back: “How is it ‘highly politically motivated’ when people could be losing their jobs?”
Town councillors agreed to welcome the County Council’s new childrens centre proposals for Burnham and Highbridge, given the apparent lack of changes.
But councillors decided to ask Somerset County Council to discuss the wider county-wide proposals with the community group Highbridge and Burnham Together to seek more local integration of services.
Cllr Clayton abstained from voting.