Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Portsmouth protest over Sure Start centre cuts

Protest against Sure Start service cuts
Image caption Parents and children heard speeches and brought along musical instruments

A group of parents have gathered in Portsmouth to protest against proposals to merge 16 of the city's Sure Start children's centres into nine.

Parents and their children turned up on Commercial Road with musical instruments to hear speeches against Portsmouth City Council's plans.

Organiser Lisa Fletcher said the centres provided a "lifeline" for many.

A council spokesman said it had to make "some tough choices about where to make savings" following cuts to its budget.

'A lifeline'

Mrs Fletcher said it was the second such protest.

The demonstration follows a three-month consultation by the Liberal Democrat-controlled council, which will make its final decision on 3 June.

Mrs Fletcher said: "I never thought I'd ever be protesting in my life but Sure Start means so much to me.

"It's a lifeline to most of us. It's not just about socialising, it's not just about helping our children learn and develop physically and socially - it's bringing a community together."

Councillor Rob Wood, cabinet member for children's services, said: "Overall we're seeing an increase in funding for very young children in Portsmouth.

"But the government has moved money away from children's centres.

"And all parts of the council have to deal with the government's challenge to make savings."

Portsmouth City Council is looking to save a further £9m on top of an original £8m set of savings agreed in December.

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