At the Cheshire East Council meeting on Thursday, Conservative proposals to ‘de-designate’ Children’s Centres in Sandbach, Nantwich, Knutsford and Broken Cross (Macclesfield) provoked a lively debate.
There was a notable difference between an individualistic Conservative approach and a community based Labour view. Conservative speakers advocated an individualistic one-to-one service and Labour councillors stressing how Children’s Centres promote communities and group support. Concerns were expressed in the debate that new proposals to visit people in their homes will add to isolation and to the atomisation of society. Children’s Centres were praised by Labour Councillors for the way they bring people together and promote self-help in groups.
The new Council Leader said that some people didn’t go to Children’s Centres because they might meet people they didn’t want to mix with.
Sam Corcoran, Labour Councillor for Sandbach Heath & East, said, “I used Sandbach Children’s Centre with my children. Despite what the Council Leader said, there were no people I didn’t want to mix with. Indeed I gained advice support and insights from the other parents there.
“I am disappointed that the 3 Conservative councillors representing Sandbach, Cllrs Gill Merry, Barry Moran and Gail Wait and also Cllr John Wray for Brereton Rural all voted on party lines and supported the de-designation of the Sandbach Children’s Centre.”
Damian Bailey, Labour Councillor for Crewe St Barnabas, said, “We have seen the way the Tories closed down Council respite care for the elderly. When the Tories closed Santune House in Shavington they promised to keep Lincoln House in Crewe open. Then they closed in Bexton Court in Knutsford and then Mountview in Congleton. Finally they closed Lincoln House. Now we see the start of the same process over Children’s Centres. First they are closing centres in more affluent areas, but Children’s Centres elsewhere in Cheshire East will now be under threat. When I asked the new Council Leader for an assurance that no more Children’s Centres would be closed, the response was far from clear.