Tories in attempt to find cash to help save centres

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PORTSMOUTH Conservatives say they are trying to find the money that’s needed to save Sure Start centres.

Councillors Donna Jones and Luke Stubbs are going through the council’s budget to see if £1.9m spent in other services can be used.

As previously reported in The News, the council wants to merge centres in the city in an attempt to save about £1m.

It would bring the number of them in the city down to nine.

The move has been met with strong opposition and scores of parents have staged protests.

Cllr Jones, who is deputy leader of the city’s conservative group, said: ‘What I am trying to do is see whether there is moveability in the council’s budget.

‘There may be money being spent on things which aren’t a political priority.

‘Supporting families and young children are more important than other non-statutory things in the city.

‘The Sure Start campaigners have highlighted the cause brilliantly so far.

‘Nobody in the city can be left in any doubt that this is a vital service that people want to keep.

‘Now my job is to assist the campaigners in finding a solution to this very serious problem.’

Cllr Jones will talk to a council officer in the next few days about the budget.

She will then hold a meeting with campaigners at the civic offices on April 30 to discuss what else can be done.

Labour group leader Cllr John Ferrett said a huge chunk of the money would be found if the council demolished The Pyramids Centre, in Southsea.

He said: ‘If they demolished that, it would release £700,000 a year and they should use that money as well as money in the capital budget.’

Council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson said more children’s activities could be available in the future because the council is considering hiring out more places like churches.

‘We would be having a much more flexible approach,’ he said. ‘It means that instead of using spaces that we pay for all the time we can use that we rent for when we need them.

‘We could cut the cost and at the same time provide more services for families across the city.’

Results of a public consultation, which finished last month, have not yet been published. A final decision will be made in June.

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