A consultation into the future of Bexley's Children's Centres has been launched, with opinions sought on a new model for controversial cuts to the services.

The second stage of the public consultation has begun after 3,700 residents gave feedback on proposals to close nearly all of the centres in the borough last year as the local authority needed to make significant savings.

Now a new model has been proposed which would see the number of venues offering Children's Services increased from 20 to 29, with libraries and leisure centres used to host activities.

The council say the new proposed model would still reduce spending on services, buildings and wages, with an expected annual savings of £377,500.

Bexley Council

Bexley Council

There are currently nine Children's Centres in Bexley, but plans released in 2020 to close most of them with one centre hub for the whole borough were met with fierce protest locally, leading to the council to decide that is was "not a viable option."

A "challenging" financial council budget was approved in February, including a number of savings, staffing reductions and a sharp tax increase following a very tough year, but the Children's Centre decision was delayed for further scrutiny.

The new model proposed would see an in-house Children's Centre team 'provide targeted support' to children and their families, with sessions run in the children centres and other venues in the borough.

The council say this team would be introduced in addition to the existing services provided by Health Visitors and Midwives.

This would result in more services being run from Children's Centre buildings, as well as libraries, leisure centres and community buildings across Bexley, giving families more choice as to where to go, say the council.

Covid-19 has affected local authorities across the UK severely - PA

Covid-19 has affected local authorities across the UK severely - PA

Cabinet Member for Children's Services, Cllr Philip Read said that following on from feedback received from residents last year, the council had carried out 'extensive analysis into the needs of families with under-fives.

"In the light of the helpful opinions expressed, we have looked again at where there was most need in the borough and at all available Centre buildings and how they were being used.

"As a result of that work and by thinking innovatively, we have developed a new model.

"The new model will provide a greater choice of services and venues for those families that need it the most while still meeting our budgetary requirements.

"We believe it right that we should take those services as close as possible to those who need it most and the increased number of possible locations being proposed would help us do that.

I know from the first stage of the consultation the strength of feeling that local families have for our children’s centres. I hope that everyone who uses, works or has some connection with the centres will take part and let us have their say.”

The consultation has just begun, and there are a number of ways residents can find out more about the proposals and have a say, and the full details can be found here.

An online survey, online meetings, phone call appointments or contacting the consultation by email are all open to the public.

The consultation opened on May 10 and will run on until Sunday, June 11.