Today the Southampton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) plans to start a consultation on the closure of the Bitterne Walk in Centre and I thought it was appropriate to set out my views.

In October last year the CCG announced that they were planning on shutting the Bitterne Walk in Centre for a trial period without any form of consultation with those who use the service. To say I was disappointed in this approach would be an understatement, and alongside others I helped to get the CCG to withdraw this proposal. Today’s announcement that the CCG will be carrying out a full and open consultation does at least mean there will be an opportunity for those who use the service – local people, to have their say and to inform the decision making process.

The CCG are making it clear that the decision is not made and that the outcome of the consultation will form a crucial part of the final decision. In short this will be a meaningful consultation. I can only applaud that approach and I believe it is important that relevant bodies and local residents use the consultation as an opportunity to get their voice heard.

My central concern with the proposal is that people on the east of the City will be left poorly served if this facility were to be removed. I am also concerned that the CCG have gone away, had six months to think about it and will return putting forward exactly the same proposal.

In October the estimated annual cost of running the centre was £1.4 million. At the time I questioned how the centre could cost this much, and I am hopeful this time the public will be presented with a full breakdown of the costs. I still believe that this centre could be run for a fraction of this amount and in doing so the justification for closure could be removed.

The principle of this service is that although we do not all need to use the centre regularly, we are all reassured to know it is available when we most need it. I wish to assure you I will do everything I can to represent your views to the CCG throughout the consultation.