CHILDREN’S Centres could close their doors in a number of towns as services move into the community.

Wiltshire Council has outlined savings of £250k by closing six of the current 17 centres across the county and continuing children’s services from community hubs, like libraries, nurseries and gyms.

A consultation is now open into the proposal.

The proposed closures will be Pewsey, Cricklade, Trowbridge Longfield, Mere, Salisbury City and Westbury White Horse.

The council says 83 per cent of children’s centre work is already being done in community halls, toddler groups or within people’s own homes instead of in centre buildings.

Cllr Chris Devine said: “I see several hundreds of people with banners saying Save Our Children’s Centres at a future council meeting. But as long as the service is still in an area which can be used by specific groups and will be available that is adequate.” Cllr Jacqui Lay called for more clarity one where staff would be expected to work from if the buildings did close.

Wiltshire Council plans to invest in staffing instead of buildings to provide ongoing children’s services to families of children under the age of five. However the £250k saving is due to go into the central council saving fund and will not be reinvested directly into children’s centres.

Lucy-Anne Bryant, lead commissioner said: “It’s a win-win. We want families to access libraries to improve literacy and reading. But we also want to improve fitness and consider healthy lifestyles so we want to encourage that by having services they already use in these spaces. It would be absolutely brilliant if families could go in and realise they can adopt a different lifestyle to improve their outcomes.”

Wiltshire Council said staff were helping vulnerable families who rely on children centre services to understand and take part in the consultation.

Lucy-Anne Bryant, lead commissioner, confirmed that although the buildings will close, services will continue to be run in the community. Libraries, gyms and nurseries could replace the community centres as the main hub for early years clubs and support groups.

In 2016 the number of Children’s Centre buildings was reduced from 30 to 17. The new proposal will see it reduced to 11. Speaking during a Children’s Select Committee meeting, chairman Cllr Jon Hubbard said: “My concerns is not the next six weeks, it is down the line in the next six to 12 months. The proposal is not to reduce services. The proposal is to change the locality within the community. This may change because dedicated buildings will be disposed of. But alternative community services will be used.

A final decision will be made once the consultation closes in March 20.

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