Portsmouth could lose children’s centres under council cuts

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THE number of children’s centres across Portsmouth is set to be reduced as part of city council budget cuts.

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

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

The changes are subject to consultation.

Mergers that will be consulted on include Portsdown Area Children’s Centre with Drayton and Farlington, Northern Parade with Stamshaw, and North End children’s centremerging 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.

The authority hopes to save money through reduction in management and staffing, and efficiencies in premises running costs.

Cllr Neil Young, shadow spokesman for education on Portsmouth City Council, said mergers could affect educational performance.

He said: ‘From my perspective it’s tough because obviously my real concern is that if we do cut children’s centres from 16 to nine, what’s going to be the impact on performance? We are all aware education in the city could be better but at Key Stage 1 it is above the national average. It’s something I’m concerned about.

‘Most areas of deprivation are going to be protected but for me I would welcome a response from parents and families who use these centres to get involved in this review and tell the council what they want to see.’

Cllr Young added he would like to see the centres offering services to parents, such as job seeking, health advice and awareness on alcohol and drugs. He told councillors at yesterday’s full city council meeting: ‘We should not be playing Russian Roulette with our children’s education.’

Cllr Donna Jones, deputy Conservative group leader, said: ‘From what I have heard I am not against structure changes if they are under-utilised – it makes sense to use them fully.

‘But I am concerned about the knock-on effect it could have on Key Stage 1 results.’

Deputy council leader Cllr Hugh Mason said: ‘We are not cutting the centres, we are only merging them.

‘We are doing it as carefully as possible to maintain the best services for our vulnerable children and adults.’

Cllr Rob Wood, cabinet member of children and education, said: ‘We are going through very difficult times and I am glad there are concerns about children. We spent several weeks going through this. Safeguarding children is really important.’