Norfolk children's centres: Council backs plans to close 38 sites
A controversial proposal to close most of the children's centres in Norfolk has been rubber-stamped after a six-hour meeting.
Norfolk County Council earmarked 38 out of 53 centres for closure to save £5m from its children's centre budget.
Protesters called on those arriving at Tuesday's meeting to reject proposals, but the children's services committee voted to go-ahead with the closures.
A new "targeted" early childhood and family service will be set up instead.
The Conservative-run authority said it wanted to invest in the outreach service to help the most vulnerable families in their own homes.
Committee chairman Stuart Dark said: "I'm confident the new service will provide a more targeted, consistent and accessible approach, in line with national best practice."
Sara Tough, director of Norfolk County Council's children's services, said: "It's not a proposal to reduce children's service delivery, but it's about working differently."
Plans were announced in September to close 46 centres but the council made a U-turn last week, reducing the number of proposed closures to 38.
Labour councillor Mike Smith-Clare said he was "distraught" over the decision.
"For some of those most marginalised individuals… children's centres have been a lifeline, not just to them but their children and for what should be future generations," he said.
"We are hurtling towards an abyss and leading towards a stage where we are relying on limited resources, limited amounts of money and limited support."
Parent and campaigner Jon Watson, who uses the Bowthorpe centre in Norwich, said: "I'm gutted not just for my children, but for all the staff because I have seen the fantastic work they do."
The centres run services including free-parenting courses and health checks and are used by about 23,000 under-fives each year.
The approved changes are due to take effect in October.