VIDEO - Children’s centres protest outside Wakefield Council meeting

Parents staged a noisy protest outside County Hall today as Wakefield councillors discussed a controversial shake-up of children’s centres.

The protesters held banners and chanted “save our centres” before a meeting of Wakefield Council’s cabinet.

At the meeting, councillors decided to launch a consultation on proposals to centralise 23 children’s centres to six main centres and three “linked” sites, which would offer additional support in areas of high deprivation.

The six remaining main centres would be Airedale, Castleford, Oakhill at Featherstone, Pomfret in Pontefract, Cedars at Hemsworth, Sunbeam in Lupset and Castle in Sandal, Wakefield.

Staff could be made redundant under the proposals, which have been drawn up as the council faces £185m in budget cuts over the next five years.

At the protest, parents praised the children’s centres and said any closures would leave families struggling.

Gemma Chapman, 32, said: “It’s a really vital lifeline for people. People would just be isolated otherwise.”

Jennifer Clay, 33, said: “There is complete disbelief that a service like this could be closed down.”

The meeting heard that a £2.5m cut in the budget for children’s centres had been agreed in March.

The council was also faced with meeting the cost of rising numbers of vulnerable children who need support.

Olivia Rowley, cabinet member for children and young people, told the meeting: “For one reason or another, the most vulnerable families are not using the children’s centres.”

Speaking afterwards, she said support would continue for the most vulnerable if the proposals went ahead.

She said: “If there isn’t a children’s centre they will continue with that support in other buildings in the vicinity.

“My officers and myself, and the council in general, are totally committed to supporting young people and families as much as possible.”

The council was planning to work with organisations including the police, schools, NHS, probation services and the charity sector to improve services.