Wiltshire Publications

Mixed fortunes for future of children’s centre

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WESTBURY’S children’s centre is to close later this year – but services will remain in the town.

Wiltshire Council has proposed that the services at the children’s centre be transferred to the new community centre that is being planned for the old Westbury Youth Centre in Eden Vale Road. 

To allow time for the transfer of ownership of the old youth centre to local charity Westbury Community Project, who are behind the plans to transform the building, Wiltshire Council has agreed to delay the closure of the children’s centre until the autumn.

Should the transfer of ownership of the building not take place, the council has said that services will still continue, but will be run from alternative venues in the town.

The news has been met with a mixed reaction from campaigners and town councillors, who turned out in force at last week’s Wiltshire Council cabinet meeting to appeal against closing the children’s centre. 

A petition with over 500 signatures was presented to councillors at the meeting.

Nadine Crook, who led the campaign to save the centre, told White Horse News, “It’s not exactly what we wanted, but we have not been left completely empty-handed. The result is a promising one, and could be positive for the community – but that depends on what services are moved to the youth centre.

“Judith Westcott from Wiltshire Council did say, although nothing has been confirmed in writing, that the same level of services will be continued at the youth centre, and they will look to add more if they are well attended.

“It’s difficult, as the children’s centre is designed for children’s services – you could not get any better. But what looks promising is that they intend to involve parents in the design for the renovation of the old youth centre building.

“Having children’s services in the new building might be a good way of reaching more parents who need support – something we feel Wiltshire Council has failed to do by relying on referrals into the service. 

“Visitors to the new centre who might be there to visit the café or access another service, will also be able to chat to children’s services staff and get advice. So although we haven’t achieved our aim to save the centre, we have hopefully achieved increasing open access to children’s services.”

Mayor of Westbury, cllr Ian Cunningham, added, “I am still sad that we will lose our children’s centre. However, Wiltshire Council’s decision to delay the closure and to help the Westbury Community Project (WCP) to open in the old youth centre so they can run some children’s services there is commendable.

“I am pleased that Wiltshire Council accepted that their promotion of children’s services has not been good and that they will do more to advertise future services. I accept that usage of the children’s centre has not been as high as it might have been, but I believe this is because most of the services were already cut back and those remaining poorly publicised since the last round of cuts. 

“Wiltshire Council will save money by closing the current building but it is not clear that all this money will be used to bring services back towards the levels we had a few years ago.

“Wiltshire Council has promised to monitor effectiveness more closely and involve partners from the town in this and planning, which I applaud. Whether they can provide more effective services whilst spending less is yet to be seen.

“I would like to thank all those who campaigned including the town council, but especially the mothers led by the tireless Nadine Crook (who produced so much evidence) for all they have done here.

“As a trustee of the Westbury Community Project, I am delighted that following on from Wiltshire Council’s recent announcement of a change of heart over helping, they now seem to be committing even more to the project and have recognised that this is exactly the sort of service on the doorstep that Westbury Community Project wants to provide for this part of town. I await the next steps with interest.”

Wiltshire Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, Laura Mayes said, “Children’s centre services offer vital support to parents in the early years of a child’s life. It is important that this support continues in the most effective way, with genuine outreach to families across Wiltshire.

“We know some families would rather visit a community venue than a children’s centre building, or the centre may be too far from where we live. Rather than spend money on costly underused buildings, we want to invest in the staff and the services to give young children the opportunities to have a good start in life.

“I’m pleased Westbury Children’s Centre will remain open until the autumn while we explore the potential transfer of the old Westbury Youth Centre to the Westbury Community Project Trust.”

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