Parents win fight to protect centre

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PARENTS in Gosport have claimed victory in their fight to save their children’s centre.

Campaigning mums are rejoicing after Hampshire County Council said it would leave the Haven centre in Bridegmary alone – after suggesting it would be grouped together with other centres across Fareham and Gosport under a single management.

Claire Arnold, 30, who visits the Haven with her 14-month old daughter Kayla, said: ‘I’m quite emotional. The council has listened to us and our centre has been saved.’

Elyse Scott, 39, a member of Haven’s parents’ forum, added: ‘We’re over the moon. We felt our manager was irreplaceable and now we won’t lose her and hopefully the staff. This proves that fighting for what you believe in does pay off.’

The county’s proposals to re-organise Sure Start centres across Hampshire were revealed yesterday after a two-month consultation.

All current 81 children centres will remain open, says the council. But while keeping the sites separate, the council wants some to merge staff and resources.

Centres in each area will also be grouped together under one single provider.But mums fear some centres in the future could be shut down.

Oakmeadow children’s centre in Fareham has avoided being merged with Merry-Go-Round in Wickham. But it is set to be grouped with other centres in Fareham.

Becci Frost, 24, of Oakmeadow children’s centre, said: ‘The council has made concessions but their mergers don’t make sense – they are mixing up completely different areas. Neither have they given guarantees that all sites will stay open and we will retain all our services.’

Catherine Ovenden, co-founder of Save Our Children’s Centres, added: ‘The mergers and cuts are still posing a major threat to our centres.’

Cllr Roy Perry, who will make his decision next Friday, said: ‘Despite what people said, these proposals show that the consultation was always a genuine one and we were listening. I will be considering the professional advice from our director of children’s services very carefully.’