Mum’s legal fight to save Hampshire children’s centres

L-R'' Mum Vickie Taylor, Lucy Taylor (4) and son Jordan Taylor (12) at the Surestart centre in Gosport''Vickie is launching a legal campaign to halt the closures of the Surestart Centres.
L-R'' Mum Vickie Taylor, Lucy Taylor (4) and son Jordan Taylor (12) at the Surestart centre in Gosport''Vickie is launching a legal campaign to halt the closures of the Surestart Centres.
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MUM Vickie Taylor is taking on the might of Hampshire County Council in a bid to stop it closing down children’s centres.

The 30-year-old has started a fight against the authority, threatening it with High Court action if it does not withdraw its consultation on plans to cut 81 Sure Start centres to 53.

Solicitors acting on her behalf say the consultation is not legitimate as the council approved £6m cuts from the Sure Start budget weeks before the deadline for people’s views.

Miss Taylor, of Rodney Close, Gosport, who started using the children’s centre in Rowner two years ago after being diagnosed with post-natal depression, said: ‘The council is not listening – its mind is made up. I hope the legal threat will force them to take us seriously. Now I’m confident we can beat them.’

Under the proposals, Rowner would merge with Stubblee Hill, in Lee-on-the-Solent.

Miss Taylor said: ‘The two areas have completely different needs – Rowner is more deprived and has lots of single parents on low income.

‘If these mergers go ahead, many families will slip through the net. I accept money needs to be saved, but centres do early intervention incredibly effectively and economically – they save families from a lifetime of problems. Cutting them for a mere £6m is wrong.’

Drawing from her own experience, mum-of-two Miss Taylor, added: ‘Two years after I had Lucy I was diagnosed with delayed post-natal depression. I was given anti-depressants but before I took them I saw a Sure Start brochure advertising a PND group. I haven’t looked back since. I went from having no friends or self-esteem to getting involved in lots of classes, volunteering and supporting others.

‘Rowner saved my life, and I want centres to be around for future generations.’

Rosa Curling, of Leigh Day and Co Solicitors representing Miss Taylor, said the council was obliged under the Childcare Act 2006 to consult on proposals for closures, and had to do so with an ‘open-mind’ and having made ‘no definite decisions’.

She added: ‘We have advised our client that unless the council agrees to withdraw its consultation and reinstate the child centre budget, an application to the High Court be made without delay.’

The council has until April 6 to retract its consultation or face possible judicial review.

Children’s services boss Cllr Roy Perry said: ‘I’m totally satisfied the consultation process is being conducted absolutely properly.

‘I’m still very interested to hear what people have to say and within the terms of the actual overall budget we will arrive at a decision.’