Agenda item

Petitions to be Debated

Minutes:

The Legal Officer provided clarification around declaring interests on the matter under consideration. It was advised that Members were appointed to Advisory Boards in a non-fee earning capacity, therefore these appointments were non-disclosable pecuniary interests, however there may be an issue in relation to predetermination, in which case Members would be able to speak but not vote on any decisions.

 

The Council had been asked to debate a petition on the Children’s Centres, presented at the meeting held on 4 December 2013 and containing in excess of 500 signatures.

 

The Mayor advised that a copy of the petition entitled ‘Save Peterborough’s Children’s Centres’ was available to view, along with the recommendations already made by the Creating Opportunities and Tackling Inequalities Scrutiny Committee. Members were reminded that the purpose of the debate was to move recommendations to Cabinet to consider when they made their decision on the matter.

 

Councillor Murphy was invited to read out a statement on behalf of the lead petitioner, Mrs Emma Majewicz which provided an overview of her personal circumstances and detailed the support she, and others, had received from the Westwood and Ravensthorpe Children’s Centre. It was highlighted that the local communities needed the Children’s Centres and feedback from the public consultation had demonstrated that a high number of people were against redesignation.

 

Members debated the petition and in summary raised points including:

·         The ringfenced Government funding available for free childcare, which would total more than £10m in the current year in Peterborough;

·         Funding for Children’s Centre Services was no longer ringfenced;

·         The consultation had been extensive and a number of meetings had taken place with mothers;

·         The children’s centres gave mothers the opportunity to attend a number of various sessions;

·         Doing nothing was not an option due to the financial challenges that were faced, and safeguarding children had to continue to be the priority;

·         The proposals would continue to focus services on the children most in need but would make sure that there was support from social care and health for all mothers and children in the city;

·         The Council would receive £44m less in grant funding, therefore the financial challenges faced in coming years were great;

·         The Cabinet paper highlighted positive discussions with a private childcare provider with a view to them taking over the childcare centre in Hampton;

·         The proposals would not have the best long term outcomes for the children of the city;

·         Support was not just needed for deprived people, but also for those with no families in the area;

·         The Equality Impact Assessment recognised the short comings of the proposals and had not been included within the Scrutiny papers;

·         The £100k made available in order to support some activities was not considered to be enough, and would the money be made available year on year?

·         The decision made in 2012 in relation to the children’s centres was supposed to secure the future of the children’s centres in the city;

·         The Childcare Acts 2006 and 2009 imposed duties on Local Authorities to improve the wellbeing of young children in their area, reduce inequality and to make arrangements to ensure early childhood services were provided;

·         Parents needed professional support, not just emotional support from families. The Council should do all it could to support individuals;

·         The children’s centres had proven their worth since they had opened and they should remain open until no other alternatives were available;

·         Efficiencies needed to be saved from elsewhere and this could be achieved. The financials needed to be further explored;

·         Closing the children’s centres would cost the Council more, e.g. with redundancy payments;

·         There was extra money coming into the Council for health visitors and they would need premises to operate from. If the children’s centres were not utilised, then more money would end up being spent health centres;

·         Officers had worked hard and listened to the consultation and the proposals addressed most of the issues raised;

·         Services which played a vital role in nurturing children should not be cut;

·         Efficiency savings and raising revenue from the centres could be further explored;

·         The reason for the cuts was to protect the most vulnerable with the resources available;

·         Not all wards had access to children’s centres and the new proposal would bring an improvement in access to these wards, reaching out to those more in need;

·         Having the support of children’s centres was a good thing for mothers; and

·         In order to mitigate some of the impact on communities where there would not be a children’s centres, Cabinet would be requested to deduct £100k from the proposed savings to support a number of areas, including maintaining health visitors and maternity clinics, support to schools and childcare providers and support to parents who were interested in running centres themselves.

 

During debate, a recommendation was proposed by Councillor Shearman that:

 

‘Cabinet defer any decision making on the proposals to close children’s centres until further alternatives and proposals have been thoroughly explored, considered and consulted on’.

 

This recommendation was seconded by Councillor Saltmarsh.

 

A recorded vote was requested and agreed. Members voted as follows:

 

Councillors For: Ash, Davidson, Fletcher, Forbes, Fower, JR Fox, JA Fox, Harrington, Jamil, Johnson, Khan, Knowles, Martin, Murphy, Saltmarsh, Sandford, Shabbir, Shaheed, Sharp, Shearman, Swift, Sylvester and Thulbourn.

 

Councillors Against: None.

 

Councillors Abstaining: Arculus, Casey, Cereste, Dalton, Day, Elsey, Fitzgerald, Goodwin, Harper, Hiller, Holdich, Kreling, Lamb, Lee, Maqbool, Nadeem, Nawaz, North, Over, Peach, Rush, Sanders, Scott, Seaton, Serluca, Simons, Stokes, Thacker and Todd.

 

Following the vote (23 For, 0 Against and 29 Abstentions) the recommendation was AGREED and would be carried forward to Cabinet.