Palfrey Sure Start Children's Centre changes get go-ahead despite opposition
A controversial move for a children's centre to change hands will go ahead despite more than 1,600 people opposing it.
Walsall Council had previously decided that Palfrey Sure Start centre on South Street would no longer be run by Palfrey Community Association and instead would be managed by Change Grow Live (CGL).
But it prompted a fierce backlash from residents who launched a campaign to block the move. Because the petition gained more than 1,500 signatures it triggered a Full Council debate on Monday.
However following the discussion the council confirmed CGL would being their contract in April.
Speaking at the meeting, Walsall resident Shahin Akhtar said: "This is totally shifting the focus of what Sure Start is about – everyone who walks through those doors is part of the sure start family regardless of their faith, ethnicity, race, language and beliefs.
"We understand that the contract had to come to an end and by law the tender had to be open to all, but where in the law does it say a service which is outstanding requires a change."
She added: "We voiced our opinions but we were not heard.
"The decision taken today will not affect those sitting here tonight, it will affect the futures of our families and our children for years to come.
"In these times of rising racial attacks a place where all our community can come together will be lost.
"During these difficult times of austerity cuts why is it that this provision has been given to the highest tender?"
In response councillor Lee Jeavons, deputy leader, said: "This is not an aggressive takeover, CGL want this to work and indeed CGL are negotiating with the Palfrey Centre to use the same building.
"They want to run services from the same building if they can.
"We are trying to provide a better service for a good value."
Councillor Jeavons added: "This petition was not officially submitted until the decision process was completed."
The venue delivers a range of services for families with children aged between 0 to 19.
When the contract came up for tender Palfrey Community Association, which runs it on behalf of the council, it lost out to Change Grow Live.
Deputy Mayor, councillor Bott, stated that the petition and comments of those opposing the move would be taken on board.
He said: "Being as this has already been to scrutiny, it should be unnecessary to defer this anywhere else so I would like to propose that we note the petition made and the comments made."