Here’s a really positive followup (and what looks at the moment to be a blog exclusive) to a story I featured a couple of weeks ago, when Esther Allen of The Chasewater Strollers parent and toddler group contacted me to publicise their petition against the planned closure of both Burntwood Childrens Centres – otherwise known as ‘Surestart’.
The petition Esther asked me to publicise – and which I agreed with wholeheartedly – was really well supported by readers and the wider local community. Sterling support was also provided by Councillor ‘Aunty’ Sue Woodward, who released the following good news last Friday (7th February 2015), which Esther has been good enough to share with me.
This is excellent news, and although the hard work is to come as Sue rightly points out, the outlook is much more positive, particularly with dynamic people like Esther and the mums who’ve campaigned so hard to save well-loved facilities on board, in the face of some pretty vitriolic and charmless opposition.
Sue Woodward said:
Media Release from
Cllr Sue Woodward
Staffordshire County Councillor for Burntwood North – Lichfield District Councillor for Chase Terrace
For Immediate release: 06/02/15
Burntwood Children’s Centres Closure Put On Hold – Local Discussions On Ways Ahead To Take Place
County Councillor for Burntwood North, Sue Woodward, has expressed her delight and relief that Burntwood’s Children’s Centres have been given a reprieve while further discussions take place on the services based there.
The Centres had been earmarked for closure but following high-level meetings at the County Council initiated by Cllr Woodward and a high-impact campaign by local parents, including a petition and via social media, Staffordshire County Council have granted the centres a 6 months’ reprieve.
In correspondence to Cllr Woodward, the County Council says that it will continue to fund the running costs of both centres for a 6 month period while detailed discussions with the schools where they are sited at Springhill and Boney Hay take place, with a view to continuing to allow children’s groups to operate from community spaces at the sites. The schools will now be in a position to look at what is expected of them in more detail and the groups who have received “notice to quit” by the end of March will be asked if they are still interested in providing their service from the centres or helped with finding other community venues if they wish.
Cllr Woodward said: ‘I’m delighted that we are being allowed this breathing space while we negotiate to keep and develop further the services that were under threat. I think that the County Council has heard our message loud and clear and there is now a real commitment to find better ways forward. It’s now up to us as a community to enhance these services which, frankly, have not been promoted as they should have been.’
The County Council have also agreed to support Cllr Woodward and local mums to explore the possibility of setting up their own cooperative or social enterprise to ensure that the services are on a firm footing well into the future.’
She added: ‘I’ve been amazed at the response locally against the loss of these services and the enthusiasm of the lovely mums who have swung into action to save the centres. I’m also amazed at the skills and expertise of these young parents and want to capture and develop what they bring to the town through their voluntary activities.
‘The hard work really starts now: the onus is now back on us to make sure all of these lovely and much-valued support groups continue.’
The Chasewater Strollers are a very popular buggy walking group for parents, run by Esther Allen and still going from strength. They meet every Monday, 9:30am at St Anne’s Church, Chasetown WS7 3QL – why not pop along tomorrow?
Any questions please send us an email or facebook message. Otherwise just turn up and you will be made very welcome!