Controversial children's centre takeover set to go ahead despite petition

A controversial council move will allow a children’s centre to be taken out of the control of a community – despite a petition of more than 1,600 signatures against it.

Sure Start Palfrey Children's Centre
Sure Start Palfrey Children's Centre

A service currently provided by Palfrey Community Association, in Walsall, is set to be taken over by an outside company after a decision by Walsall Council chiefs.

But a petition of more than 1,600 angry parents and community members has been submitted, urging leaders to rethink their decision.

The venue at South Street delivers services for families with children aged between 0 to 19.

But when the contract came up for tender Palfrey Community Association, which currently runs it on behalf of Walsall Council, lost out to CGL (Change, Grow, Live).

Chiefs have said the petition ‘cannot alter the decision-making process’ and the plan for CGL to run the centre will continue.

The organisation is now planning to launch a consultation in a bid to engage with the community in Palfrey.

A council report says: “Although the petition cannot alter the decision-making process, the council would like to reassure the community of its intention to ensure that CGL will continue to deliver the services families in the Palfrey community have accessed and they say have changed their lives.

“We will expect the new provider to consult with the service users and the wider community to ensure services meet local needs and secure positive outcomes for children in Palfrey as part of the central and south community.

“CGL have indicated they would like to start consultation and engagement with service users and the wider community at the end of January.”

When she launched the campaign in November, Anna Rogozinska said: “We cannot understand how a centre which has two outstanding Ofsted reports would have a change in management especially from outsiders who may not know our community as well as the local people who provide our children with activities do.”

However the report adds: “That council notes that the tendering process which led to the award of the contract to Change Grow Live has been scrutinised by education and children’s services overview and scrutiny committee.

"The committee concluded that the process was fair, open and transparent, that it had been and correctly adhered to, and that none of the organisations tendering for the contract had been disadvantaged.”

“That the council note that legally there is no power to interrupt the process of awarding the contract on the grounds raised by the petitioners.

“There was a mandatory procedure to be followed, including a requirement to notify the successful tenderer the award of the contract, it would have been unlawful for the council to not have done so.

“That the council notes the plan of actions as part of the transition and implementation of the new contract to ensure services user continue to receive a local quality service.”

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