D-Day looms on the future of Portsmouth’s Sure Start centres

CAMPAIGN Parents have marched in Portsmouth to protest at the closure of Sure Start centres. Picture: Malcolm Wells (131344-4096)

CAMPAIGN Parents have marched in Portsmouth to protest at the closure of Sure Start centres. Picture: Malcolm Wells (131344-4096)

Lord Mayor of Portsmouth Councillor David Fuller, Georgie Howard, 18, Head of Gaskell House, and deputy headmistress Heather Trim with students at the start of the walk Picture: Sally Tiller

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THE fate of children’s centres in Portsmouth will be decided on Monday.

Portsmouth City Council’s cabinet will meet to consider whether 21 jobs at Sure Start facilities should be axed.

The plans initially were to close seven of the 16 centres – but changes have been made following a public consultation.

It’s now being proposed that all of them should be kept open, due to the amount of opposition against any closures.

Opening hours and admin posts could be cut.

Staff would work in nine teams that each get responsibility for several centres.

Savings have to be made because the government says the council has to provide an extra 900 free nursery places for disadvantaged two-year-olds.

Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘The government has told us we need to provide an extra 900 free nursery places for the most disadvantaged children in the city.

‘So we have to find the money for that from somewhere.

‘Some people will be very pleased because they will get free nursery provision, but there will be others who will be disappointed.’

Cllr Rob Wood, cabinet member for children and education, said: ‘The council has lost about a third of its overall budget, mainly because of cuts to the funding it gets from the government.

‘This means we have to make difficult decisions on where to save money.

‘These proposals have been drawn up very carefully by council officers.

‘They have been shaped by what hundreds of residents told the council during a three-month consultation, and by discussions with campaigners.’

Conservative group leader Cllr Donna Jones said an alternative strategy needs to be made.

‘Although I understand why these cuts are being made, a more comprehensive, over arching strategy 
could have ensured the longevity of Sure Start centres,’ she said.

The meeting will be held from noon at Portsmouth Guildhall.

Mother-of-three Lisa Fletcher, 37, of Landport, will make a deputation.

She said: ‘It’s disgusting. We need staff more than buildings.’

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