A HUGE crowd of concerned parents protested against Swindon Council’s proposals to close seven of the town’s 12 children’s centres.
Yesterday’s action followed the council’s announcement last week that it is reviewing the services with the aim of saving £770,000 as it tries to make £48m in budget cuts over the next three years.
A consultation on the closures is planned to run from July 29 to October 3.
The plans will be discussed during the council’s cabinet meeting at the Civic Offices at 6pm tonight.
During the protest, the group of 50 people waved banners and flags as they walked from the Jurys Inn Hotel to the council-run Whalebridge car park.
They met at the £15m multi-storey car park, which opened last year, because the group claimed the investment was a waste of money.
“The turnout today following very short notice has been very good,” said Wendy Cutter, 35, of Walcot, who attends Drove Children’s Centre with her one-year-old son James.
“We need to bring a stop to these proposed cuts and I hope we’ve shown the council that we are not going away.
“I’d like as many people as possible to get behind us and help save your local centres as everyone knows a child who benefits from them.”
When they got to the car park, which had more than 1,000 free spaces over its six levels, the protesters chanted “save our centres.”
Abbie Bell, 35, who attends Robert Le Kyng centre with her six-month-old son Jacob, hopes the council will acknowledge the group’s concerns.
Abbie, who lives in Rodburne, said: “If Robert Le Kyng and the one in west Swindon goes I’ll have to go to the one in Penhill.
“I don’t have a car and would have to get two buses, so it is unlikely I’d go, as that’s a long journey with a young child.
“The service is vital to the community and the staff at Robert Le Kyng have been great to me as my son had to undergo open heart surgery when he was just three months old and they’ve helped us with his recovery.”
Anne Snelgrove, Labour’s South Swindon Parliamentary candidate, is working with the families with their campaign.
She said: “My plea to the council is that they think again as this is not about politics but children’s futures.”
Coun Fionuala Foley (Con, Chiseldon and Lawn), cabinet member for children’s services, says that due to budget constraints difficult decisions will have to be made.
“Doing nothing about it is not an option,” she said.
“There are some areas where parents will have to travel further and for that I am sorry. But while it may be inconvenient they will still have access to a centre.”
Coun Mark Dempsey (Lab, Walcot and Park North), who is the North Swindon Parliamentary candidate, said: “I think today’s protest shows the strength of feeling against these plans.”