High Court Judge dismisses children centre campaigners case, cuts to go ahead

The Council said it ''welcomed" the high court decision
The Council said it ''welcomed" the high court decision

The High Court Judge Mrs Justice Andrews DBE has dismissed a legal challenge from Local Campaigners over the closure of several children’s centres across Buckinghamshire.

The anonymous mother said she was devastated by the result, but was considering an appeal.

The Council however, welcomes the decision by High Court Judge, Mrs Justice Andrews DBE, “to comprehensively dismiss a Judicial Review on all grounds, including failure to properly consult, failure to comply with statutory duties and procedural failures in the Council decision-making processes.”

In handing down her decision to dismiss the claim for Judicial Review, Mrs Justice Andrews said she was satisfied that the consultation had been entirely fair and that "the Council carried out the Consultation before it made the Decision; it took the responses properly into account, and it complied with all its relevant statutory duties."

The anonymous mother from High Wycombe said, “I am very disappointed that it has not gone in our favour but I will never give up fighting for what I believe in.

"I never thought we would get this far with it going to the high courts, at least our voices got heard and that I tried my best to do good not just for the children centre's but for the whole community.”

Warren Whyte, Buckinghamshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services said: “We are very pleased with the court’s decision to dismiss this judicial review.

"It is regrettable, however, that we have had to contest it at all, as this has been a very costly process – both financially and in terms of the time spent by our team in preparing for this hearing.

"These proceedings have caused anxiety for our staff and critically, could have shifted focus and energy away from the children and families who need our support.

“This has never been about withdrawing any services – quite the opposite; it’s about enhancing how we help families across Buckinghamshire with children of all ages. People who need extra support will be able to get it in a more targeted way under the new Family Support Service.

“The very reason we are making changes to our service is to make sure families and children in greatest need of help in Buckinghamshire get that help sooner.

"By providing those families the right support at the right time, as well as maintaining a universal offer for everyone at 16 family centres, we can work to prevent families’ issues escalating, by offering help before their problems get worse.”

The County Council also issued a release, saying:

"The new Family Support Service has been carefully designed to provide better, more targeted support for vulnerable families, who face a range of issues or more complex challenges. These families will have a team in place to support them to address all their needs – with the ultimate aim of helping them to overcome their problems leading to happier and healthier lives.

"Universal support for families across Buckinghamshire will be provided at a network of 16 family centres which will offer a wider range of services and provide improved access through extending opening hours beyond what is currently available at many existing children’s centres.

"The Council is committed to using the 19 former children’s centres for alternate provision from the autumn, which will be primarily for early years benefit and community use. Before the new service starts, there will be a full programme of activities for local families throughout the summer at the existing network of children’s centres."

Alka Dass, Lead Campaigner said: "We are disappointed by the result but we cannot give up hope. We will keep on fighting and will continue supporting the anonymous mother. We
would like to thank her as we would not have had a judicial review launched. It’s not an easy thing to do and it requires commitment so I sincerely thank her on behalf of Save Bucks
Children's Centres. It’s been a long journey for us as a campaign group but we will not give up."

"Giving up is not the solution. We need to continue thinking about funding as this is part of a bigger picture, we cannot continue like this anymore.

"So I urge everyone to start banging the doors of their MP’s locally and Nationally- phone their offices, meet them personally, write to them!

"Nationally, we will be announcing a date for the ‘National Parent led Save Our Children’s Centres’ march which I’m also Co-Founder of as this needs to stop now, early intervention is key and children’s centres are a lifeline.

"A big thank you to everyone for their continued support, parents, residents, staff, cross party support and nationally all the lovely messages we have received.

"We need the funds and as the children’s commissioner* challenge to call for an extra £10bn a year to the future MP’s, we will be contacting both Jeremy Hunt and
Boris Johnson to get their commitment if they become PM. We cannot stop."