MP is under fire over kids’ centres as mums march

ANGRY The Sure Start March' sets off through West Street in Fareham town centre.     Picture: Malcolm Wells (111160-8440)
ANGRY The Sure Start March' sets off through West Street in Fareham town centre. Picture: Malcolm Wells (111160-8440)

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MP CAROLINE Dinenage has been accused of ‘turning her back’ on mums who are campaigning against plans to cut the number of Sure Start centres.

The Gosport MP came under fire after asking David Cameron to join her in ‘welcoming Hampshire County Council’s proposals to protect front-line Sure Start services while saving public money by cutting back-office costs’, during Prime Minister’s Questions.

Mums were marching through Fareham Town Centre yesterday to oppose mergers as well as plans to tender out clusters of centres to a single provider.

Helen Sharp, 33, who uses Rowner Children’s Centre in Gosport with her daughter Rebecca, six, said: ‘I am disgusted with what she said and the way she put her question.

‘How dare she come to our centre and tell us she is supporting us, and then publicly support the council?’

Sacha Johns, mum of 18-month-old Oakley, who attends The Haven centre in Gosport, is worried about the consequences of Ms Dinenage’s comments.

The 23-year-old said: ‘I hope no-one listens to her because what Hampshire is trying to do is wrong.

‘Can she honestly think with the Sure Start budget being cut (by £6m) and with centres merging there will be no closures or staff cuts in the future?’

Elyse Scott, 38, whose daughter Grace, four, also benefited from The Haven, said: ‘It was difficult to hear our MP giving her backing to Hampshire when we were led to believe she was supporting us. I was angry and now I’m disappointed.’

Mum-of-two Vickie Taylor, 30, a volunteer at Rowner, has enlisted solicitors to threaten the council with high court action if it doesn’t withdraw the consultation. She said: ‘She’s turned her back on us. I’m gutted.’

Ms Dinenage insisted she had received many emails and letters applauding her for her question and raising the profile of Sure Start.

She said: ‘I am still supporting the mums and I care about Sure Start so much, which is why I’ve fought to get assurances that no front-line staff will go.

‘I don’t think it’s productive to back the council into a corner or they will stop listening to important arguments.’

Reduction plans

Hampshire County Council is proposing to cut the number of children’s centres from 81 to 53 through mergers.

In Fareham and Gosport, this would see 12 centres reduced to eight, in Havant nine would shrink to six, and in East Hampshire five would become four.

The plans are also to tender out the centres in each of these areas - Fareham and Gosport is considered one - to a single third-party provider.

The proposed mergers in Fareham and Gosport are Oak Meadow/Merry-Go-Round, Sovereign/Strawberry Meadow, Haselbridge/Little Waves, Rowner/Stubblee Hill.

Those in Havant are Park Futures/Sharps Copse, Orchard/Starfish, Mill Hill and Small Steps/Crookhorn Lane.

And in East Hampshire, proposed mergers are Hillside/Treetops.