Dismay over new home for threatened services

The Adult College at The White Cross in Lancaster
The Adult College at The White Cross in Lancaster

Plans to close a Lancaster children’s centre and relocate it almost a mile away have been met with dismay by councillors and residents.

The White Cross Education Centre will become the new “Neighbourhood Centre” for many city services that face relocation or closure as part of plans to slash £262m from Lancashire County Council’s budget.

Firbank Children’s Centre is situated next door to Ridge Community Primary School in Firbank Road. The service offers a wide range of groups, courses and activities for families with young children. But under new proposals which have gone out to consultation this week, the service would be moved to the White Cross in Bulk Road, just under a mile away.

Bulk Ward Coun Tim Hamilton Cox, said: “We will do all we can to keep the Firbank Children’s Centre services here on the Ridge, where they are well used and needed.”

Lancaster Register Office, currently situated in Queen Street, will also move to The White Cross under the proposals, along with the Lancaster Youth Offending Team.

So far there are no plans to relocate Ryelands Young People’s Centre, which has been earmarked for closure.

Coun Hamilton-Cox said: “White Cross is too far to travel for families from the Ridge with children and pushchairs, and there are no buses that go directly to The White Cross.

“These Neighbourhood Centres need to be in the heart of the neighbourhoods that they serve.”

He added: “Due to the unprecedented funding cuts from national Government to the county council, a greatly reduced budget means the new services that will be provided have less focus on supporting families, 
with the money available going towards dealing 
with families in crisis.” 
Lancaster County Councillor Gina Dowding, whose is also chair of Children’s Services Scrutiny Committee, said: “We believe that money can be saved if resources are directed to helping families before they get to a crisis stage. There has to be more focus on prevention. These are the services local children’s centres provide.”

Similar plans in Morecambe will mean the town’s library will become the Neighbourhood Hub. The library will become a satellite service with no staff based there, and other services will be relocated to the building. A public consultation on the proposal runs until August 14.

Visit www.lancashire.gov.uk/council/get-involved/consultations/.