Calls to drop closure of Burgess Hill children and family centres

Proposals to close Burgess Hill children and family centres and its youth facility should be dropped in light of recent government announcements, the Lib Dems have argued.

Thursday, 8th April 2021, 11:31 am

Conservative-led West Sussex County Council is consulting the public on a redesign of its early help services.

Proposals would mean the closure of the majority of the county’s children and family centres and separate youth centres.

Burgess Hill’s The Gattons, Sidney West and Park Centre are all slated for closure.

The Gattons

Late last month the government published a review to improve babies’ and children’s healthy development.

One priority area was a ‘commitment to champion family hubs, making them a place for families to access Start for Life services’.

Kirsty Lord, county councillor for Hassocks and Burgess Hill South, said: “Liberal Democrats at WSCC proposed a plan in February to save children and family centres from these cuts, but Conservative councillors including all of those in Mid Sussex voted against it.

“These facilities are crucial to local families to give their children the best start in life and the proposal to retain only one centre for the whole of Mid Sussex is not good enough. Now it looks like the chair of the Early Years Review, Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP, agrees with the Liberal Democrats.”

Mid Sussex Lib Dems are calling on WSCC to cancel the current consultation, go back to the drawing board with its redesign proposals to secure the future of the children and family centres and youth centres and engage with the government to obtain the funding required to safeguard the centres for all local families.

Stuart Condie, Lib Dem candidate for Burgess Hill North, said: “These proposed closures of the facilities at the Gattons, Sidney West and Park Centre would be another blow to Burgess Hill following the demolition of the Martlets. As the government review says, early years services should be levelled up and not dumbed down for budgetary reasons so we are calling on WSCC for a complete rethink of this important issue.”

A West Sussex County Council spokesman said: “Ensuring every West Sussex child is given the best start in life is the focus of everything we do so we welcome the government’s report on early years.

“Our Early Help Service proposals aim to enhance the support we offer children and babies who are most in need, while meeting the changing needs of families who are under more pressure because of the pandemic. The proposals would retain children and family centres in each district and borough of the county, providing family services which we know are really important to parents and carers.

“The current consultation is a vital part of determining how best to deliver these services and we encourage everyone to take part before it closes on Monday 17 May at https://yourvoice.westsussex.gov.uk/early-help-redesign”