Council hears plea to keep Sure Start centres open

Council hears plea to keep Sure Start centres open

Nicola Hine

Council hears plea to keep Sure Start centres open

Results of an extensive consultation into the future of Windsor and Maidenhead's Sure Start children's centres were discussed by the Royal Borough cabinet last night.

A report on the consultation, which saw more than 3,000 questionnaires distributed to parents and service users, was presented at a meeting at Windsor Guildhall by cabinet member for children's services Cllr Eileen Quick (Con, Clewer East).

Fellow members unanimously agreed the council should aim to keep all centres open and operational - but the final details on how this will work will not be revealed for almost a fortnight.

The process was launched in January after the council announced it was considering closing some centres and introducing fees for parents in a bid to reduce the £1.4m annual cost of the services.

Nearly 1,000 responses were received and the vast majority of users were positive about the services offered, including play sessions and health visitors.

The cabinet heard an impassioned plea from Gill Cocklin, head of South Ascot Children's Centre, which collected 62 signatures on a petition in favour of it staying open.

"We do realise there are savings to be made and savings can be made if we're given the chance to be creative thinkers and strategic thinkers for the future," she said.

Cabinet members noted the positive response to the consultation and agreed to seek to keep all centres open.

But they discussed the detailed options for the future of the centres behind closed doors during part two of the meeting - from which the public and press are excluded.

The final outcome of the meeting will not be revealed until after May 9, when a call-in period on the matter expires.

Results of a consultation on the Borough Local Plan, which sets out how and where the borough will develop over the next 15 years, were also presented at the meeting.

Out of 60,995 questionnaires distributed to households, 108 were returned - a response rate of 3.4 per cent - which was praised as the best return rate ever for a local plan consultation.

Last night councillors also agreed that they would seek to adopt land north of Ockwells Manor in Maidenhead into the greenbelt as part of the Borough Local Plan.

Landowner and developer Thames Valley Holdings is trying to get National Trust covenants on the land in Cox Green lifted so it can build new homes there.

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