Council cuts: Parents begin fight to stop children centre closures
PARENTS campaigning to save closure-threatened children's centres have vowed to combine their efforts to fight the controversial council cuts.
On Monday Stoke-on-Trent City Council revealed that it is considering shutting seven of its 16 children's centres as part of a plan to save £33 million.
PROTEST: Kimberley Curtis with daughter Hannah Guest outside the Treehouse.
Picture: Phil Radcliffe
And yesterday centre managers held an emergency meeting with families and volunteers to discuss the proposals.
The session – held at the Treehouse Children's Centre in Bentilee – saw dozens of angry parents vent their concerns.
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After the hour-long meeting, families kick-started a campaign aimed at safeguarding the future of all 16 centres.
Mother-of-four Annelise Druce, aged 30, from Meir, has been using the area's Crescent Children's Centre for four years.
She said: "Our children have done nothing wrong, they shouldn't have these services taken away from them.
"We all want the best for our kids and as parents we are going to combine as one to fight for what we believe in."
Mother-of-five Kelly Clark, from Bentilee, became a volunteer at Treehouse after being impressed by the set-up.
The 30-year-old said: "The plans are awful. This centre has turned my life around.
"They have given me confidence and helped me study for an NVQ."
Fellow volunteer Melissa Beydilli is chairman of the Family Zone at Blurton Children's Centre.
The 38-year-old, from Blurton, said: "Although they are called children's centres they do so much for the parents.
"There are a range of courses on offer and opportunities for employment.
"I don't think people realise the services that would be lost if these centres closed."
The threatened centres were all opened in the past six years at a cost of more than £4 million.
Of the £33 million the city council is hoping to save, £12.6 million would come from its children and young people's directorate, which faces up to 241 job losses.
Shutting the seven centres will save £3 million, while other plans include the possible closure of a teenage pregnancy service and reviewing the future of Stanley Head outdoor education centre.
Mother-of-one Kimberley Curtis, aged 21, of Bentilee, said: "It's disgraceful because there is so much here for people to do."
Councillor Deborah Gratton, cabinet member for children and young people's services, said: "We understand and appreciate the concerns of parents but would stress once again that at this stage, these are only proposals, and we would urge people to give us their views."
To contact the council, write to Let's Talk, Freepost, Our City or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively, send a text, with the heading 'letstalk' to 07786 200700 with the message.