- Posted by: Canterbury Labour
- Category: News
Letter Dated: 29th November 2023
Dear Mr Gough
You will, I am sure, be all too aware of the acute concerns that district council leaders, including the cabinet of Canterbury City Council, have to the proposals to be discussed at KCC Cabinet on 30th November regarding the suggested changes to early years services, children’s services, and youth provision, including – but not limited to – the Kent Communities Programme.
The changes outlined in your cabinet papers propose streamlining and co-locating services, creating “Family Hubs”; these proposals to date contain so little locally specific detail, rendering them far from helpful to other local authorities, who own many of the assets potentially being vacated and often employ supplementary staff in these locations to act as partners in the delivery of a local offer. Nonetheless there is sufficient insight for us to realise the inevitability of long-term damage to communities should these proposals be implemented.
The proposed cuts include the relocation of services based at Northgate Community Centre or the Prince of Wales Youth Club, both in Northgate Ward. This is a Ward with very significant levels of deprivation in Canterbury. The removal of KCC services from one of those locations would undermine the viability of both these supportive Community Hubs.
The withdrawal of KCC services from both The Riverside Children’s Centre and St Stephen’s Community Centre will place the future viability of these spaces in serious doubt: Canterbury City Council would be placed in the unenviable position of having to find appropriate new uses for both those locations, such that ‘clawback’ from SureStart funding used to set them up is not implemented. The closures and rationalisation I have outlined from your proposal would undoubtedly undermine and threaten the long-term viability of embedded community locations that have selflessly and effectively supported children and young person’s service provision for many years. We urge you to consider consequential damage, such as that shown in these examples, that would be created through the cut you seek to approve.
The loss of the Apple Tree Children’s Centre at Chartham will, for rural residents, be particularly hard felt. Apple Tree Children’s Centre has served the local community well for many years and is in an accessible location: closure will mean a long and difficult journey to an alternative venue, something that those most in need of help in this rural area will find ever more difficult and unachievable.
The situation at Hersden with the Tina Rintoul Children’s Centre, mimics in many ways that of Chartham, again disadvantaging those families living in rural areas some distance from urban centres. Your Cabinet decision will directly and irrevocably impact the lives of young people growing up in our rural communities. We – the cabinet of Canterbury City Council – urge you to please reconsider the effect this decision will have on their lives and those of the generation not yet born.
The proposed closure of two centres in Whitstable, namely Joy Lane Children’s Centre and Swalecliffe Children’s Centre, would significantly impact on Whitstable families if implemented and will be a huge loss to the Whitstable area, adding additional pressures to existing, somewhat limited services. It is very hard to imagine how the services delivered across Whitstable for families and early years could be successfully co-located at the Whitstable Youth & Community Centre whilst continuing to offer a youth centre for teenagers within that same space. In these days where the Cost-of-Living crisis means many families struggle for food, heating and housing, many young people just cannot afford to attend privately run after school classes and sports clubs. Youth clubs run by local authorities provide real opportunities that young people across our district deserve and can be accessed regardless of means. We urge you to prioritise spaces for our teenagers and young people.
We recognise the extremely precarious financial position that KCC finds itself in but urge you to not make savings of this magnitude that represent lost opportunity for future generations. Our children and young adults gain so much from the strength of community support at Community Centres run by the council; we believe that such tangible, accessible benefits will never fully be replicated by other partners or other means.
Signed for and on behalf of the Cabinet of Canterbury City Council,
Cllr Alan Baldock