UPDATED -Wakefield children’s centres huge backlash against possible closures

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The possible closure of 14 children’s centres around the district has sparked a huge backlash from families.

Parents are planning to protest at County Hall in Wakefield today as the council’s cabinet meets to discuss a controversial shake-up of the service.

More than 2,000 people have joined Facebook protest groups against the plans since last Friday, and three petitions have been launched.

Families fear losing lifeline services after plans emerged to reduce the number of centres to cut costs.

Under the council’s plans, 23 children’s centres could be centralised to six main centres and three “linked” sites, which would offer additional support in areas of high deprivation.

The six remaining main centres would be Airedale, Castleford, Oakhill at Featherstone, Pomfret in Pontefract, Cedars at Hemsworth, Sunbeam in Lupset and Castle in Sandal, Wakefield.

Staff could be made redundant under the proposals, which have been drawn up as the council faces £185m in budget cuts over the next five years.

A report to tomorrow’s meeting shows that the number of children aged under five registered at the centres district-wide has increased from 14,486 in 2010-11 to 17,347 in 2013-14.

The percentage of under fives registered at the centres has also increased, from 70 per cent in 2010-11 to 85 per cent last year, the report shows.

But the report said not enough people were using 16 of the district’s 23 centres.

It said: “Registration rates are high within the district but not enough families are using children’s centres or accessing services on a regular basis.”

If the proposals are approved a formal consultation will run until October.

For a special report on the plans, see this week’s Express, and keep checking the website for updates.