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Plans to close children's centres in Kent are 'not a done deal'

Kent County Council has to save two hundred and forty million pounds. It says cuts by central Government leave it no choice. Today councillors met in Maidstone to consider areas where cutbacks could be made.

But as Andrea Thomas reports, any choice they make will be unpopular with some taxpayers. And noisy demonstrators fighting plans to close children's centres were there to make their voices heard.

She spoke to some of those demonstrators and Jenny Whittle, cabinet member for children's services at Kent County Council.

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Children centres planned closures causes protests

Save Kent Children Centres Campaign has begun today, with protesters staging a demonstration after Kent County Council announced that 23 children centres may have to close.

The following Children Centres are earmarked for closure:

  • Ashford- Cherry Blossom and Squirrel Lodge
  • Canterbury- Apple Tree, Briary, Little Bees, Swalecliffe and Tina Rintoul
  • Dartford- Maypole
  • Dover- The Buttercup, The Daisy and Primrose
  • Gravesham- Daisy Chains and Little Painters
  • Maidstone- Loose and Marden
  • Sevenoaks- Dunton Green and Merry-Go Round
  • Shepway- New Romney, The Village or Folkestone Early Years
  • Swale- St Mary's and Woodgrove
  • West Kent- Hadlow/East Peckham, Larkfield and Pembury
  1. Iain McBride

Council to cut almost a quarter of a billion pounds from its budget

Kent County Council is to cut almost a quarter of a billion pounds from its spending budget. Unions have raised concerns that the move could cost up to 1,500 jobs.

The council leader, Councillor Paul Carter, admits the level of savings needed to balance the local authority's budget is "eye watering", but he has pledged to protect frontline services. Iain McBride reports.

The interviewees are: Councillor Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council (Conservative); Councillor Roger Latchford, Kent County Council (UKIP); David Lloyd from the Unison union.

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Kent children's centres to close

Kent County Council is planning to close 20 children's centres across the county.

The council says it needs to make savings and the closures will make savings of at least £1.5m.

The children's centres provide early childhood services and important support for parents and carers.

Kent council is launching a 12-week consultation today to get the views of local parents and the wider community who use the centres.

Kent County Council is committed to continuing to provide the services we currently offer through our Children's Centres and continuing to make a difference to the futures of families we help through those centres. We need to make efficiency savings and will seek to do this by minimising property and management costs."

– Jenny Whittle, Kent County Council cabinet member for specialist children's services
  1. Jamie Stephens

Council criticised for failing vulnerable child

Kent County Council has been severely criticised by local government watchdogs for its treatment of a 16-year-old boy who had been abandoned by his parents.

The Local Government Ombudsman says staff failed to properly care for the vulnerable teenager, who was left homeless. This report from Jamie Stephens includes an interview with Nigel Ellis, Investigations Director for the Local Government Ombudsman.

The report is followed by an interview conducted by our presenter Sangeeta Bhabra with Mairead MacNeil, the Director of specialist children's services at Kent County Council.

Concerns over lane rental

A spokesman for utility contractors who face paying for road works that cause congestion on during busy times on peak routes has said he's not convinced the scheme is needed.

But the National Joint Utilities Group Ltd (NJUG) said it wanted to place on record its appreciation for the inclusive and collaborative way in which Kent County Council consulted with it and its members in the development of its lane rental scheme. It added:

Whilst NJUG is yet to be convinced that lane rental will deliver substantial additional benefits over and above the existing legislation already available, we believe that Kent County Council’s approach takes a sophisticated look at using lane rental in a very targeted way, balancing the need to reduce the unfortunate disruption which sometime arises from both utility and authority essential street works, with the need to invest in essential utility services and the road network, and not unnecessarily increasing consumers’ and ratepayers bills. ”

– Mark Ostheimer, Operations Director of the National Joint Utilities Group

He said they looked forward to continuing to work with the council on the plan.

A12-week trial began in March after the scheme was given the green light by the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin. Companies began incurring fines from 28th May 2013.

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