A MOTHER has claimed a consultation on a Burton children’s centre was inadequate and is fearful for the facility’s future.
The consultation into the potential privatisation of children’s centres in East Staffordshire — including the East Staffordshire Children’s Centre in Waterloo Street, Burton — began in February to address poor attendance figures.
Interested parties were able to take part online or by post, and two public meetings were held at the Burton centre to give parents the chance to air their views in person on the controversial plans.
Jen Layton, 30, who attends the centre between two and five times every week, believes that having received only 208 responses, it was not an adequate consultation by Staffordshire County Council.
Miss Layton, of Ashby Road, Burton, said: “It didn’t reach enough people. They only had a small poster and a pile of leaflets in reception and I don’t think enough people knew about it.
“They should have sent emails to members and actually told people in the classes about it and they might have had more responses.
“All of the information itself was buried on the council website so people might have tried to take part in the consultation but not actually found it.”
Miss Layton, who attends several classes at the centre with her son Mylo and uses its toy library, said she is now worried about the privatisation of classes and the financial implications this would have on her and other parents.
She initially became concerned after the ‘splashtastic’ course, which is currently still being advertised on the council’s website, was cancelled. She is fearful more classes may be cut.
Miss Layton said: “I think that as soon as the classes are run by private companies they will cancel classes or charge more money for them.” Staffordshire County Council has hit back at her claims, stating that the consultation was well advertised and the change in organisational structure would not affect parents financially.
County councillor Mike Lawrence, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “The consultation meetings were advertised in the local press well in advance, information was put in local libraries, via partner organisations and within children’s centres themselves.
“Currently, some outreach groups are free while some are charged at a nominal fee. This should continue into the future even if services are commissioned.”
The council has also said that the structural change would not affect jobs at the centre.
Councillor Lawrence said: “We are currently consulting with staff to make sure the views of those who are impacted by any change in organisational structure are taken into account.
“No redundancies have been made and it is not our intention to force any redundancies as part of this reorganisation.”
Miss Layton is sceptical of the council’s response, and has set up a ‘Save Staffordshire Children’s Centres’ Facebook group to encourage people who use the facility to join together and discuss its importance.
The group has already been joined by 45 people.