OPPOSITION councillors have demanded more clarity on the Conservatives’ proposal to close multiple youth centres across Windsor and Maidenhead.

A virtual overview and scrutiny meeting was held Thursday night where it was decided the Conservative proposal to close 14 youth and children centres across the Royal Borough and implement a ‘family hub’ model instead will go back to cabinet to add more clarity on the plans and next stages – following criticisms from the opposing Liberal Democrats and Independents.

Some opposition members asked for a ‘call in’ – where a decision the cabinet has taken is looked at again and possibly brought back to them – as they questioned the lawfulness of the consultation and decision to close these centres across the Royal Borough to implement a ‘family hub’ model instead.

The two family hubs could be implemented in Windsor and Maidenhead, saving £600,000 and delivering a more “targeted” service, supporting families with young people aged 0 to 19, the proposed report stated.

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Tory cabinet members were heavily criticised by opposition councillors over clarity as the Conservatives claimed they didn’t vote to close those selected youth and children centres across the Borough to opt for the family hub at the last cabinet meeting on April 30, but to approve the paper published on the results of the first consultation  and move on to the next phase which is a second-round ‘implementation’ consultation on the proposal.

36 per cent of the 501 consultees on the first 12-week consultation were in favour of the family hub, 32 per cent were against and another 32 per cent were neutral or did not know.

Councillor Ross McWilliams (Conservative: Cox Green), lead member for youth engagement, said that the council is currently at an ‘informative’ stage and is not at the point to implement the family hub strategy and youth centre closures.

The Conservatives claimed this future consultation was always the plan, but members of the opposition pointed out that wasn’t clear nor was it in the implementation timetable, where it says the family hub will be operational this September.

Most of the voting members of the overview and scrutiny meeting agreed an amended version clarifying an ‘implementation’ consultation will be held will go to the cabinet meeting at the end of the month for votes and debate.

Another cabinet meeting will then be held in July or August to finally decide whether to implement the results of this future consultation where the youth and children’s centres may close for the council to opt to the family hubs.

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Opposition councillors scolded the ruling Tories for not notifying them or making any mention of this future ‘implementation’ consultation in the report as well as the unclarity that the 14 centres to close were ‘examples’ and were not set in stone.

They added for the paper to make it clear that not all universal services will end.

Councillor Simon Werner (Pinkneys Green), leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “The report needs to reflect what’s actually happening and not go beyond its own brief.

“A much clearer idea about the next stage, the work we’re going to ask AfC (Achieving for Children) to conduct, how the next consultation will be done and how a decision will be made on the next stage – that’s not really highlighted in the report as it’s currently presented and that needs to be in the report before it's passed.

“The report contains a list of centres that should close. This should be taken out because it’s based on no true analysis and in any case it’s part of the work that AfC will do as the next stage so it’s wrong to include that list of centres in the report.

“Now, you might say this is just an example of how these services could be provided – but even then, it needs to say that and make it clear.”

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Elaine Browne, the council’s head of law, said there was no unlawful decision making because the approval at the last cabinet meeting was not full and final to close 14 youth and children centres nor to change the services they provide as a future legal consultation will be taken place – but she added that more clarity could’ve been given around the decision made retrospectively.

The report will be brought back to cabinet on May 28 to give officers enough time to seek expert advice on how to adapt consultation methods during the coronavirus pandemic.