Towards the end of last year I was asked by the Star to write about what I expected in 2015, writes Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Ipswich, David Ellesmere.
Sadly one of my predictions has already come true. Conservative-run Suffolk County Council has confirmed it is pressing ahead with its plans to close nine Surestart Children’s Centres.
The County had already decided what they were going to do long before they launched their so-called consultation process. There was nothing anyone could have said that was going save these children’s centres from the axe. The same happened when they closed the Ormiston children’s centre last year.
When we handed in a petition of over 1,000 signatures against the closures in Ipswich, Gordon Jones, the councillor in charge of closing children’s centres, was keen to point out that one or two people who signed the online petition didn’t live in Ipswich. It was clear he regarded this as a justification for ignoring the views of the thousand people who did.
He has also ignored the results of his own official consultation. The closure of the Meredith centre was supported by only 9% of respondents. Only one person supported closing Quayside. Three quarters of professionals thought that the closureswould have a negative impact on the service. More than a fifth of parents said they would stop usingchildren’s centres if these closures went ahead.
All of this counted for nothing.
The report the County are using to justify the closure of the children’s centres actually calls for them be located in the areas where they are being closed. It calls for better integration between children’s centres and the NHS but the County are closing the Meredith centre which is located next door to the Whitton clinic.
One voice has been noticeably absent since the confirmation of the closures - our MP. In 2010 Ben Gummer “ambushed”Harriet Harman when she visited Ipswich. Accompanied by helpers carrying “SureStart Safe With The Conservatives”banners, he accused Labour of lying when we said the Tories would close children’s centres.
I don’t think there can be any doubt about who was lying now.