Union joins fight for Sure Start centres’ future

A banner used by parents and children opposing cuts to the Sure Start programme two years ago
A banner used by parents and children opposing cuts to the Sure Start programme two years ago
Picture: Malcolm Wells

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THE fight to save seven children’s centres in Portsmouth has been stepped up a gear.

Trade union the GMB has joined forces with the Labour party in order to save Sure Start Centres from closing.

As previously reported in The News, Portsmouth City Council has revealed proposals to merge the centres in an attempt to make an approximate saving of £1m during 2013/14.

The plans include merging 16 centres to bring the total in the city down to nine.

The changes are subject to consultation.

Labour leader Councillor John Ferrett said his party is opposing the plans.

Now trade union GMB is backing the cause.

Frank Minal, regional organiser from the GMB union, said: ‘We’re deeply concerned by the proposals of the council to reduce the amount of services provided to the most vulnerable within the community.

‘The staff remain committed to providing the best possible service to Portsmouth, but the drastic cuts being proposed will undoubtedly impact on service delivery to families and their children.

‘The GMB has two meetings proposed with staff in February to prepare a formal response to the council’s radical cuts.’

A petition has been started by the Labour party.

Cllr Ferrett said: ‘We welcome the support from the union, and anyone else who backs us. These centres were set up so there is one in each ward.

‘It means people with low incomes don’t have to travel far to get to a centre.

‘We currently have a petition going out across the city.

‘These centres are in places accessible to people.’

Mergers include Portsdown Area Children’s Centre with Drayton and Farlington, Northern Parade with Stamshaw, and North End children’s centre with Willows.

Also to be consulted on are the merger of Milton Park with the Cumberland and Baffins centres, the combination of Southsea with Brambles, and a merger of the Portsea and Somerstown centres.

The council proposes Paulsgrove, Fratton, and Buckland and Landport children’s centre services will remain as they are.