Parents fight to save Portsmouth children’s centres

Portsmouth MP flies out to storm-hit islands on first trip as development secretary

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FAMILIES are being urged to attend a protest that will show how much threatened children’s centres mean to them.

Portsmouth City Council is cutting £1.9m from its budget for the city’s 16 children’s centres, and is looking at a number of proposals, including axing seven centres, cutting the number of services on offer and introducing charges for them.

The cuts are part of the council’s bid to save £17m from its budget.

Users of the centres, which provide a lifeline for young families, will be staging the family-friendly demonstration in Guildhall Square on Monday, March 11, from midday.

Lisa Fletcher, 37, from Fyning Road in Landport, is helping to organise the protest. The mum-of-three said: ‘Unfortunately at the protest last Saturday in the city centre, we felt like we were being overshadowed by a lot of the other things going on with the unions and the bedroom tax – there was very little about the children’s centres.

‘We feel like we’re being trodden on by the council because we are “just mums,” or “just carers”.

‘We want the council to hear us loud and clear, and that’s why we’re going to hold a child-friendly peaceful protest. We want as many people as possible to come.

‘There will be face-painting, balloon making and we’ll be getting the older children to write poems about what it means to them.’

The council is holding a consultation on the proposals, and has been staging meetings at centres throughout February and over the coming week.

At yesterday’s session in Havelock Community Centre in Fawcett Road, Southsea – home to the Southsea Children’s Centre, angry parents confronted Chris Williams, an education manager in the city’s education department.

Mr Williams said: ‘I would hate to be doing these meetings, knowing that these are foregone conclusions – what you say will have an impact.’

Rebecca Denford, 27, of Manchester Road in Fratton, was at the meeting and added: ‘If I hadn’t had the support of the centres, and I needed someone to talk to, I think I would have ended up with post-natal depression.

‘They are invaluable places.’

To complete the consultation go to portsmouthcc.gov.uk and follow the link.

For more information about the protest, email lipsylisa76@gmail.com