Councillor slams consultation over Stoke-on-Trent children’s centres as ‘futile’

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A Stoke-on-Trent councillor and mum has slammed a public consultation on the planned cuts to children’s centres as “futile”.

Cllr Candi Chetwynd joined 50 other parents in demanding answers from Stoke-on-Trent City Council over the proposals.

And the Ford Green and Smallthorne representative has urged many others to join the appeal to rescue the services.

Cllr Chetwynd, who has a 17-week-old daughter Aurelia, described the six children’s centres in Tunstall, Burslem, Stoke North, Norton, Ball Green and Milton as “family”.

“If our city goes without that it’s an absolute disgrace,” she said.

“It’s all down to a vote now.

“I would urge everyone to appeal to their councillor and hope that it plays on their conscience.”

The city’s children’s centres currently offer services such as free crèche while parents take classes to help them back into work and stay and play sessions, a lifeline for many lonely parents.

Charles Brown, from Tunstall, has a 15-month-old daughter and has been using the Tunstall centre every day since he became a single dad a year ago.

He said: “It’s somewhere to go with the kids.

“Losing that will ruin a community.”

There have been other consultations across the city, including dozens of parents turning out to protest at the Civic Centre last Thursday.

The proposal could also see centre staff reduced from 57 to nine.

It is part of a wider plan by the city council to save £61 million over the next three years.

Sue Hammersley, city council head of services at co-operative working, a partnership with the council to help with family issues, reassured parents no centres would be closed.

“Services will still be there,” she said.

“It will just be a very slimmed down service and every activity may no longer be available in every centre.

“It’s simply money we no longer receive.”

She urged users of the centres to speak out as part of the consultation.

“The voice that you have you can use to make a difference.

“Say what you think we’ve got wrong and what you think we’ve got right.”

She also recommended parents to set up volunteer groups where they may be able to bid for money that the council would not be eligible for to keep groups running.

The final proposal will be voted on by councillors on February 23, with any new structure taking effect from April 1.

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