Hundreds to protest at children's centre closures bid in cost-cutting drive at full Kent County Council meeting in Maidstone
Hundreds of people are to lobby councillors today in a protest over controversial plans to close 23 children's centres across the county.
County councillors attending a full council meeting in Maidstone will be urged to oppose the closure programme, although the issue is not scheduled to be debated.
Opponents hope to step up the pressure on the council to drop planned closures as a public consultation on the programme comes to an end at the end of the month.
Parents join a protest against children's centre closures in Maidstone
Twenty three children's centres out of 97 are under threat in a cost-cutting move.
To make up the loss from those centres, council chiefs are suggesting 16 "lead centres", which already provide services for a larger number of families.
Cllr Martin Whybrow, KCC Green Party councillor
These would co-ordinate other centres, which would be linked together in their area.
However, opposition to individual centre closures has triggered a series of campaigns and drawn some criticism from Conservative MPs in the county.
Hythe Green county councillor Martin Whybrow and other opposition councillors are expected to join the protest this morning.
He said: "I will do everything I can to help save these centres. Even reducing the hours is to me one step from closure.
"Kent County Council is under horrible pressure to make cuts but these centres should be saved. They play a vitally important support role for families."
Kent County Council has insisted it remains open-minded about the programme of closures.
There is some speculation that the authority may eventually give ground to opponents although a wholesale reversal of the plans is unlikely.
Union members joined a protest against planned children's centre closures at County Hall
Meanwhile, county councillors will take the first steps in a far-reaching shake-up that could see the privatisation of dozens of key services over the next three years.
A report setting out what Kent County Council describes as its latest transformation project will be voted on at today's meeting.
It will see the council moving to becoming a commissioning authority, in which it will outsource most services to other organisations.
Follow Paul Francis on twitter @PaulOnPolitics for developments throughout the day.
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