Mums fail in bid to halt children’s centre cash cuts

LISTEN TO US Local Sure Start campaigners protesting in London earlier this month
LISTEN TO US Local Sure Start campaigners protesting in London earlier this month
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MUMS have failed in a bid to stop £6m in cuts being made to children’s Sure Start centres in Hampshire.

Campaigners made passionate pleas to county councillors at an extraordinary meeting called to discuss the issue in Winchester yesterday.

But councillors voted to press ahead with plans to cut the Sure Start budget, which was £17m, down to just £11m a year.

They repeated a pledge to keep all 81 centres open – but some will share managers, bringing the number of organisations down to 56.

During a heated meeting, mum Clair-Louise McLennan told councillors the centres had saved her life.

‘I had two young children when my husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer,’ she said. ‘I had no idea how to cope. I convinced myself that the best thing to do would be to take my own life. I took the pills and told my children I loved them very much and I closed my eyes for what I thought would be the last time.

‘I was saved on that occasion. But without help my depression returned and I again tried to take my life.

‘But since then the family support workers at the Sure Start centre have been working with me and my children.

‘Their input has been vital.

‘They have virtually saved my life and kept my children out of care.’

Liberal Democrat councillors led calls for the council to reconsider the cuts which will see 35 management staff and 30 support officers lose their jobs.

But their proposals were rejected by the Tory-led council.

Council leader, Councillor Ken Thornber said: ‘A consultation has taken place and we are analysing its responses. What we have suggested are only proposals and will not be acted on until that process is completed. But we do have to save £6m.’

Parents feared that the budget cuts would mean Sure Start centres would be forced to close.

But Councillor Roy Perry, leader of children’s services said: ‘Hampshire County Council will not close Sure Start centres.

A final decision is expected to be made at the council’s cabinet meet on May 24.

Parents vowed to keep up pressure on the council.

Rebecca Frost, from Locks Heath, whose autistic son Zak has been using Sure Start centres for 18 months, said: ‘It’s a big disappointment but getting up and putting our point across has spurred us on further.

‘The leader of the council says consultation will be taken into account.

‘We will meet him and other councillors before the decision is made. We want to get them to visit the centres so they can see the excellent job that is done.’