Campaigners have branded Cabinet Member Warren Whyte’s decision to not attend public meetings set up to discuss the closure of children’s centres disrespectful.
Cabinet member for children’s services at Bucks County Council, Warren Whyte, said he will only be attending the public consultation in his hometown of Buckingham as a local councillor.
However, he did attend the public consultation in High Wycombe last night after pressure from campaigners.
Alka Dass, who has been leading the campaign against the closures, has enquired as to whether more meetings will be arranged during the day, as some parents can’t attend the evening consultations as they are unable to arrange childcare.
Alka said: “Most parents are in the middle of bedtime routines. We have requested meetings during the day or weekends and to take place in children’s centres so that parents can attend but we are still to hear back and time is ticking.
"We have also contacted Cllr Warren Whyte as he has informed us he will not be attending all meetings as they are mainly operational meetings.
“He should be attending these meetings, facing the public and being the lead, as this is his project. It is not fair and is disrespectful to attendees if he does not attend, making people feel unimportant. A lot of people are looking forward to meeting him and his team and it is extremely impolite that he does not attend.”
In response, Warren Whyte said: "The aim of the public meetings is to talk to local people about the future options for the children’s centre buildings near where they are.
"Along with sharing our plans we’re keen that we explore all options for those children’s centres that will not be used as a team base in the new service, to ensure they can continue to be used to support local families.
"We’re asking people to come with their ideas and be open about what could happen in their local area.
"It’s really important that these meetings focus on moving the next stage forward rather than going back over the principles of the Early Help model which has already been agreed.
"So to help this I will be encouraging fellow local councillors to attend the meetings in their area to support their residents, as I will be doing for Buckingham.
"I will be attending the meeting in High Wycombe where I hope to be able to answer some of the questions from the campaign group and local families.
"However, I am keen that this still remains a local conversation about the future plans for local children’s centres and for people to understand how the new service will support families in need and think about what they can do to help shape the future of the children’s centres close to them.
"Finally, people don’t need to wait for a meeting to share their ideas. We fully appreciate that not all families will be able to make these, no date or time will suit everyone, so we would encourage them to get in touch with us via the website form at www.buckscc.gov.uk/earlyhelp if they have ideas about their local centre.”
Last month Bucks County Council pushed forward with the implementation of its early help service – which will include the replacement of 35 children’s centres across the county.
The location of the meetings are:
Tuesday 20 March, 7pm at High Wycombe Library – covering children’s centres in Castlefield, Mapledean, Millbrook, Disraeli, Hamilton Road, Hampden Way and Wycombe East.
Monday 26 March, 7pm at County Hall, Aylesbury –Covering children’s centres in Waddesdon, Quarrendon, Bearbrook, Elmhurst, Oakfield and Bedgrove, Southcourt.
Tuesday 27 March, 7pm at Buckingham Library – Covering Buckingham Children’s Centre and Steeple Claydon.