MILLIONS of pounds will be cut from Hampshire’s Sure Start centres after a meeting today.
Councillor Roy Perry, Hampshire County Council’s leader for children’s services, agreed to remove £6m from the council’s £17m Sure Start centre budget.
But he assured worried parents that no centres will be closed.
He said: ‘I am aware that being a parent is the most important and difficult job in the world today. I also know these centres help parents and very young children and this is why no centres will be closed, but we do have to reduce our budgets.’
Hampshire County Council’s children’s services department has been told it must save £18m by April 1, 2012.
Its proposals for Sure Start centres will save one third of this total.
The plans agreed by Cllr Perry today will see managerial mergers reducing the number of centres from 81 to 54 though no buildings will close.
Central administration costs will be cut by £3m and in the longer term the management of centres will be taken over by charities, volunteer groups and the private sector.
Parents and union members demonstrated against the proposals before this morning’s meeting and a march was held in Winchester city centre.
Mother-of-three Louise Barter said: ‘These centres are not just for vulnerable parents and their children. They also do an excellent job of ensuring some families don’t fall into being vulnerable and in fact they save money for Hampshire by improving adult’s and children’s experiences in the county.
‘The council’s proposals will stigmatise the vulnerable because they will be the only people able to access the centres in the future.’