Maypole Primary School, Franklin Road, Dartford
A children’s centre in danger of closing under the latest round of cost-cutting measures by Kent County Council has been discussed by Dartford council.
In July, KCC announced that Maypole Children’s Centre in Franklin Road, Dartford, was one of 23 across Kent earmarked for closure.
KCC also wants the opening hours for the Temple Hill centre reduced by around half to 18 hours a week.
Temple Hill had the second highest number of children attending of all of Dartford children’s centres – 812 and almost 200 above the Kent average.
Dartford council disagreed with KCC’s proposal.
The report before councillors says: “The consultation recognises the very high level of need in the Temple Hill area and there is no suggestion that a children’s centre is not needed.
“It seems that the main driver for reducing the centre’s opening hours is a concern that the current premises are not in the best place to encourage families to attend.
“The proposal is that additional support and signposting would be provided from Temple Hill library when the centre is closed but this aspect of the proposal is not sufficiently developed to enable an assessment to be made as to adequacy.”
Dartford council’s cabinet members are expected to ask KCC to ensure that the proposal to close Maypole be subject to the provision of alternative services at The Oakfield Centre in Oakfield Lane.
The report before councillors said: “The closure of any children’s centre is to be regretted and this council would prefer to see such provision continue.
“However, the Kent County Council assessment of need, levels of current interchange between the Maypole and Oakfield Centres and projections of future use appear sound and the logic of the proposal would be hard to challenge.”
The council says it will be seeking reassurance in parking capacity at the Oakfield Centre to accommodate additional demand and also wishes to see KCC undertake further studies into the use of other nearby facilities before any closure.
There are seven children’s centres in Dartford serving almost 7,000 children under the age of five – the Brent (YMCA), Darenth, Knockhall, Maypole, Oakfield, Swanscombe and Temple Hill.
The centre at The Brent was visited by the most children, totalling 936.
The Darenth Centre saw the least children at 500. KCC says Maypole will see the population of children aged up to five years old fall between now and 2026.
An assessment concluded the area did not have large numbers of families in need of support and the assumption was that those families that do need the services will transfer to the Oakfield Centre about 10 minutes’ drive away.
Cllr Jenny Whittle, KCC cabinet member for specialist children’s services, said: “We’ve reached our decision by looking at the rate of usage and the majority of users are accessing centres nearby.
“So where we know the footfall going through children centres are low, the majority are using other centres and the levels of need is low, we believe they’re potential candidates for closure.”
KCC launched a 12-week consultation on the plans which closes on October 4.
To have your say, click here.