Parents’ anger over plans to close centre

Dozens of Ponteland parents will today call on Northumberland County Council to think again over plans to close the area’s children’s centre.

The authority is proposing to change the use of these buildings, known as Sure Start, at five locations in order to save costs and provide the services for under fives in different ways.

In Ponteland, children’s centre services would be provided in other venues such as the library, St Mary’s Church Hall and the Memorial Hall. In its consultation document, the council expects that there will be some reduction in the level of services as a result. It would only be able to continue to provide the same level of support as now for ‘families in need’.

A public meeting is taking place at the centre, located in Thornhill Road, from 3pm this afternoon and Maria Lunn – a parent member of the Ponteland centre’s advisory board – is urging those against the plans to come along.

She added: “A lot of parents and grandparents use the purpose-built centre and 2,000 names were on the books for the last quarter of the year. It has facilities such as underfloor heating and child-size sinks and the alternative venues being put forward would not be adequate for children’s centre services. We would also lose something which is a lifeline to parents of young children living in areas such as Belsay, Matfen and Stamfordham.”

The council must make £44million worth of savings over the next two years and Coun Robert Arckless, policy board member for children’s services, said: “We feel that these services could be provided in a more efficient way from other community venues.”

Those against the closure have set up an epetition. To sign it, go to http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/74224