A new model for children's centres and children's services at venues across the borough has been put forward by Bexley Council following a year of debate and backlash.

There have been over 12 months of extensive analysis, consultation and debate about the borough's children centres, and a final decision has now been passed at a Bexley Cabinet Meeting last night, September 1.

Bexley Council's Tory cabinet say the borough was "about to enter an exciting new phase for our centres" with more venues, partnership working and savings.

But Bexley Labour say they have a "list of concerns" about the new plans, which will only see six full-time staff supporting the entire borough.

There are currently nine Children's Centres in Bexley, but original 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."

The new model will see a dedicated in-house Children's Centre team provide support to children and families in a number of venues across Bexley, from libraries to leisure centres.

News Shopper: Original plans to cut back children's centres in Bexley were met with a heavy backlashOriginal plans to cut back children's centres in Bexley were met with a heavy backlash

Coming into effect on November 1, 2021, the team will be in addition to the existing Health Visitors and Midwives team, and would target those most in need in the borough.

The council say services will be from a mixture of Children Centres plus libraries, community buildings and leisure centres, giving families more choice of venues closer to their homes.

Bexley Council announced their budget in November 2020, which included cutting over 100 full-time jobs to save money, but it was announced then that a decision on a revamp of the children's centres would be delayed due to a public backlash.

Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Cllr Philip Read said: “This decision follows over a year of extensive in-depth analysis, looking at the needs of local families with under-fives, the way we use our buildings and national guidance.

"I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to have their say at one of our many focus group sessions or by filling in an online or paper survey form."

He continued: "We are about to enter an exciting new phase for our centres.

"We will be offering more venues to make it easier to access activities while allowing us to target those most in need. The changes will also allow us to increase our partnership work with Health partners.”

Bexley Labour said they had a "list of concerns" about the budget being being cut from £691k to £314k.

They tweeted out their criticism, pointing out that a council report on the children centre plans states: "Almost all stakeholders and partners indicated that they were concerned that six FTE members of staff would be insufficient to support families across the borough."

Also at Wednesday night's meeting, the cabinet decided to launch a 12-week public consultation on the borough's adult social care charging policy.