Back to the drawing board for Children's Centre Plans

The future of Buckinghamshire's Children Centres are in the balance
The future of Buckinghamshire's Children Centres are in the balance

A fresh consultation on the controversial plans to replace children’s centres across the Bucks is expected to start in September.

Last month Bucks County Council (BCC) announced it had paused plans to replace the 35 centres in the county to allow more time for public consultation.

At meeting of BCC’s children’s social care and learning committee this morning (May 15), council chiefs confirmed a fresh consultation on the centre closures is expected to begin in September.

If plans are given the green light, director of children’s services Tolis Vouyioukas, said the new early help scheme – under which the centres are expected to be replaced – will be in force by September 2019.

Mr Vouyioukas said: “We will take advice from colleagues in terms of the timing to go forward to cabinet with the appropriate decision and subject to the democratic process, which may include a call-in session, we expect that at this point the new service will go live in September 2019.

“It is important that as we move forward we capture the views of all the stakeholders including residents, staff and elected members.”

Cabinet member for children’s services, Warren Whyte, was quizzed about the legal threat issued to BCC just days before the shock U-turn on the children’s centre consultation was made.

However Cllr Whyte sidestepped the issue, stating: “We had three very interesting public sessions in High Wycombe, Aylesbury and Buckingham that raised a lot of issues that we weren’t able to answer.

“Put that together with all the other issues that arose during that development of the program I was not happy to proceed on that basis.

“It would seem sensible for a number of reasons to take stock of where we are and how we move forward.”

Last year the council announced plans to replace the centres with nine ‘hubs’ – a move which was met with anger from families and councillors alike.