THE FUTURE of children’s centres in Northwich and Winsford is in doubt as the council asks residents if they could find a better use.

Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWAC) is launching a consultation on the suggested change of use and deregulation of five children’s centres in west Cheshire.

These include Hartford and Over children’s centre, which CWAC said are used by less than 30 per cent of the area’s children aged up to five.

Proposals are for the buildings to be returned to community use to provide either alternative or complimentary services.

Clr Mark Stocks, CWAC’s executive member for education and children, said: “The five centres in question have been under-utilised by our families for several years due to the size of their facilities location and parental choice.

“We believe that we could get better use of these sites if we seek the views of local stakeholders and organisations, particularly primary schools, to change the use of our centres.

“We want to understand how the buildings could be managed differently outside the control of the council and invested in as community assets to better the needs of local children, young people and their families.”

Councillors discussed a report by Gerald Meehan, CWAC’s strategic director for children and young people, which said resources should be focused on communities and children who access centres in areas of the greatest need and disadvantage.

It also stated: “Families who are in need of help and support will still receive services through the broader integrated early years service and agencies – regardless of any change of use in children’s centres.”

Clr David Armstrong, opposition spokesman for education and children, said: “Children’s centres have made a significant contribution to the life chances of many children, particularly those born in challenging circumstances.

“The report talks about change not closure. I hope that proves to be the case.”

The consultation starts in August and runs until October 28.

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