THE legality of a consultation about the council shutting 14 youth centres in favour of a “family hub model” has been questioned by opposition councillors.

Conservative cabinet members voted to close 14 youth and children centres on April 30, so they could instead create two central hubs in Windsor and Maidenhead which would apparently deliver a more “targeted” service for vulnerable families – and save the council £600,000.

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A virtual overview and scrutiny meeting is due stream on YouTube this Thursday where the opposing Liberal Democrats and Independents asked for a ‘call in’ – where a decision the cabinet has taken is looked at again – to review the lawfulness of the 12-week consultation on the family hubs where 36 per cent of the 501 respondents supported the changes, 32 per cent did not and another 32 per cent were neutral or did not know.

They claim the consultation was not conducted in accordance with the law as not everyone who could be affected by this ‘transformation’ – such as families who use the centre, service providers, staff and advisory board members – was properly consulted on the the design of the family hubs and 36 per cent of consultees supporting the model is not a strong enough mandate.

Councillor Stuart Carroll (Conservative: Boyn Hill), lead member for social services, dismissed claims that the consultation was unlawful.

He said: “We are very confident in what we’ve done in terms of process and we don’t consider anything ‘unlawful’.

“We take process and procedure very seriously and it’s a very important set of considerations for the council – but of course, where we can provide clarifications and illuminations to concerned members on Thursday, we’re very happy to do so.”

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He added: “Yes, that portion of people were supportive – but you have to remember that an approximately another third of people were effectively neutral about the proposed changes saying they had no issue with the changes.

“So, you have to put those two numbers together because you’re looking at an approximately over a two thirds majority saying they are either in firm agreement or happy or have no problem with the proposal.

“I think over two thirds in a consultation that big and that wide is a strong mandate.”

Opposition councillors added this move will not comply with the statutory duties of local authorities that requires them to have sufficient number of centres to meet local need – with the borough only retaining five centres.

They also claim young people and those on a low income will struggle accessing the two central hubs both in Windsor and Maidenhead.

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Councillor John Baldwin (Liberal Democrat: Belmont Ward) said: “There was much talk of a ‘strong mandate’ and ‘transformation’.

“This feeble attempt at misdirection was intended to prevent us from seeing yet another bungled and very possibly unlawful consultation in which only 36 per cent of 501 respondents supported the changes.

“The cabinet’s intransigence is understandable only when seen in the light of their ongoing financial mismanagement.  Not one of nine cabinet members even bothered to listen to our pleas.

“All they could see was the temporary salvation that another £600,000 in service cuts offers to their pitiless regime.”