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Conservative councillor angrily denies claims he will close Barnet children's centres
A Conservative councillor has reacted with “dismay” at Labour claims that he plans to close more of the borough’s children’s centres.
Councillor Andrew Harper, cabinet member for education, children and families, flatly denies suggestions by Labour councillors that he is drafting in consultants in a bid to close the remaining centres.
The council has announced that it will be paying consultants up to £25,000 to evaluate the cost effectiveness of Barnet’s 13 children’s centres with the intention of “achieving the best possible outcomes for children”.
On Tuesday Labour’s children’s services spokesman, Cllr Ross Houston, claimed that he is concerned this could lead to service reductions and the closure of services.
Cllr Houston said: "It seems quite clear that this report will end up in yet another set of recommendations that cut services or funding from our children’s centres, propose privatising them or closing them.
“Our children’s centres already deliver excellent services on a shoestring to vulnerable children and to those families most in need – they deserve to be supported not whittled away."
Cllr Harper, however, strongly refutes these claims.
He said: “The Labour party’s claims are very misleading. I am dismayed by how they have portrayed this.
“I think Cllr Houston should know better.
“This kind of scaremongering risks scaring away the very people who we want to help.”
He added: “The consultants are helping us with the Barnet part of a Department for Education plan to look at the efficiency of children’s centres.
“Labour’s claims are complete rubbish and it really makes me cross that they are frightening away the very people we want to reach out to.”
Cllr Harper explained that he is bringing the consultants in to help him make the most of the limited resources he has available to spend on children’s centres.
He argued that, far from causing cuts, the consultants will help the council make the most of the funds it has so as to ensure that no more children’s centres have to be closed.