Sure Start closure a ‘done deal’ say angry parents

Carillion apprentices have been offered help from colleges including Fareham College after the firm went bust Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

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FURIOUS parents who attended the final consultation meeting about proposed Sure Start centre cuts have slammed the council for not listening to them.

More than 100 mothers and their children who use services provided by the cluster of Gosport centres packed into Rowner Children’s Centre yesterday to protest against Hampshire County Council’s plans to reduce the number of centres from 81 to 53.

TALK The meeting

TALK The meeting

In Gosport and Fareham, this would see the current 12 centres cut to eight – and all of them would be tendered to a single provider.

Mum-of-two Vickie Taylor, 30, who uses Rowner – which the council wants to merge with Stubblee Hill – is grateful to the centre for helping her deal with post-natal depression. She said: ‘I’m not impressed today. The council is just paying lip service.’

Kim Newman, 24, has been taking Thomas, two, to Haselbridge centre since he was three months old. She said: ‘I’m furious about the proposals and today’s meeting has been an extra slap in the face.’

Claire Arnold, 30, mum of one-year-old Kayla, attends the Haven children’s centre. She said: ‘The council is not listening. I feel cheated – we all made a huge effort and all they brought with them was rehearsed lines.’

Christine Chance, 27, who suffers from mental health problems, admitted she and her son Archie Michael, two, could not have managed without Little Waves centre. ‘This is a load of rubbish, the council knows what it wants to do,’ she said. ‘This whole consultation process is an insult to parents.’

Elyse Scott, 38, whose daughter Grace, four, benefitted from the Haven centre, added: ‘I feel frustrated. It feels like the decision has already been made.’

Elizabeth Robertson, manager of the Rowner centre which helps about 21,000 people a month, warned lumping Fareham and Gosport together would skew the measure of deprivation – and result in vulnerable families missing out.

Janet Hoff, children’s centre services manager, said: ‘It’s brilliant to see so many parents here and to be able to talk to them about the proposed changes.

‘We’ve never underestimated the value of our children’s centres, and we are listening to what parents have to say.’

The council yesterday said it would be extending its consultation period due to end on March 14 by a month.

The plans would save £6m from the government’s Sure Start grant of £16.9m a year.