Families face setback as axe falls on three Portsmouth children's centres
THE axe has fallen on three children's centres '“ despite concerns vulnerable families will be hit hardest.
Tory education boss Neill Young has agreed to strip the Portsdown, Drayton and Farlington Children’s Centre, North End and Willows Children’s Centre and Southsea and Brambles Children’s Centre of their special status, which means they will not be recognised by Ofsted.
Critics are concerned about the lack of detail over the plan, which will save £205,000 from the budget.
While there was assurance some form of community activities would still happen at the venues, councillors were not convinced.
Lib Dem Southsea councillor Lee Hunt said: ‘Some buildings are clearly not appropriate for use and not configured for children services. But that doesn’t apply to Southsea because it was built specifically for that at a cost of £1.6m only about four years ago.
‘This is a terrible blow that will affect the Southsea area.
‘To de-designate this much used and popular children’s centre in the most the densely populated area of Portsmouth is terrible. It’s cruel.
‘Everyone knows this is about cutting important public services.’
Lib Dem education spokesman Rob Wood said: ‘This is a poor report and it doesn’t give enough information.
‘These centres have a fantastic rating. They are in key strategic areas that were previously hard to designate.’
The city’s remaining six children’s centres will act as ‘cluster’ sites open for specific programmes.
There is confusion over whether Highbury Community and Children’s Centre – which acts as a satellite hub for children’s work – will remain open five days a week.
But the council says it wants to increase the amount of activities provided there.
Cosham parent Sam Nutbeam, 29, who uses the centre, said: ‘The situation has been dealt with poorly.’
Cllr Young said: ‘None of us want to cut any services, but we also need to make sure we are delivering services where they are really needed.
‘We need to move away from buildings and focus our efforts on services.’