ANGRY parents grilled a councillor during a protest over the closure of a popular children’s centre.
More than a dozen parents gathered outsides Bushbabies day care centre, in Rossmere Way, Hartlepool, to express their disgust at the council’s decision to close the centre in January next year.
Councillors decided to axe the centre along with Chatham House day care centre due to the £195,000 per-year subsidy required to keep them running.
But angry parents who organised the gathering say “children should come first” and the money should be saved elsewhere.
Independent councillor Cath Hill, portfolio-holder for children’s services, turned up at the centre, which runs from the Rossmere Sure Start Children’s Centre, to defend the council’s decision.
She told the disgruntled parents the council simply cannot afford to keep the centre running.
Coun Hill said: “This is the situation we are in with the Government at the minute.
“We can’t go on subsidising something which is costing around £200,000 a year, it’s just not possible.”
But more than a dozen parents and grandparents disagreed and questioned why they were not made aware that the council meeting – where the decision to close the centre was made – was taking place.
Victoria Bayliss, 31, a student and mum of Jessica, five, and Rebecca-Jo, two, said she only found out about the closure when she read it in the Hartlepool Mail last week.
Victoria, who lives with her children and husband Terry, 24, in the Owton Manor area of Hartlepool, said: “We just had no idea what was going on.
“Only two weeks ago I came along and enrolled my youngest child here. If I knew this was going to happen I would have gone elsewhere.
“This is a brilliant nursery, the kids love it and the staff are fantastic.
“The kids need to come first.”
Audrey Kimber, 43, an office worker and mum of twins Matthew and Emma, three, who lives in Seaton Carew, added: “I am just so disappointed for the kids.
“I bring them to this nursery because of how much they enjoy it here.
“I was totally surprised when I found out about the closure, it’s wrong.”
Another parent, who didn’t want to be named, said: “Half of my wages go towards day care, but it doesn’t bother me because I know how much they like it here.
“The councillors need to think of the children, instead of ploughing money elsewhere.
“We chose this nursery because of the staff and the reputation, yet now we are being told we have to go elsewhere.”
A Hartlepool Borough Council spokesman said: “Given the severe cut in Government funding, the council regrettably felt it could no longer subsidise Bushbabies and Chatham House day care nursery provision to the tune of £200,000 a year.
“We did communicate with all parents earlier this year to explain that we were looking at a range of options and this decision typifies the tough choices facing the council following a total cut in grant for 2011/12 of 19 per cent.
“We fully understand the huge disappointment expressed by parents and have informed them of the alternative provision in the town and the fact that there is significant spare capacity.
“We can confirm that the decision to cease the two services has been called in by the scrutiny arm of the council.
“Scrutiny has determined that there will not be an inquiry but have recommended to the two portfolio holders that they hold a thorough consultation exercise with parents.”