A headteacher has hit out at council plans to close Aylesbury’s Jonathan Page Centre, saying it will leave a ‘large gap in the community’.
The Thomas Hickman School is among those from which the centre collects children for its after-school club and headteacher Andy George said parents feel their children are not a high priority for Aylesbury Vale District Council.
Council chiefs have recommended withdrawing the Meadowcroft centre’s £63,000 funding, with leader Neil Blake saying it is not an ‘essential service’ at a time when cutbacks have to be made. Cabinet members have said they would welcome alternative funding so the centre can stay open.
Mr George said people were ‘upset’ by the decision.
He said: “As a school, children are our first priority.
“The question that is raised is: ‘Is the support of children in the community a priority for the district council?’
“It feels like the children are being hits first, that’s how the parents feel.”
Mr George added that the centre is a vital part of many children’s weekly routine.
He said: “They provide structure and well thought out activities to support the children. Trying to find such quality care for a similar price will be very difficult for parents.
“It’s a community service which is fairly essential for our area. It’s going to leave quite a large gap in the community.”
The council is looking to make around £2.4 million in cuts and Mr Blake said they were trying to protect ‘essential services’, which he described as those ‘appreciated and used by residents of the Vale’. He said: “I wouldn’t have thought 20 kids is a good use of that building. If it’s 60 kids then you would say problem solved.”
Council papers say 3,256 children used the after-school club in 2012/13, down from 4,927 in 2009/10.
Opposition leader, Councillor Steven Lambert, said he is working on a way of saving the centre that will not cost the council any money.
Bucks County Council, which rents part of the centre for its Sure Start programme, declined to comment, saying it could not do so until it had been ‘formally notified’ of a decision.
> Activities include: Crafts, sports, music and go-karting
> Number of children using after-school club: 3,256
> Numbers attending holiday play scheme: 2,930
> Centre’s costs: £157,000
> Centre’s income: £98,000
> Employees: Five
> Schools from which children are collected for after-school club: Thomas Hickman, Turnfurlong and Buckingham Park
> What else AVDC spends on: £10,000 on latest issue of the Aylesbury Vale Times; £7.6 million in three years on consultants; £30,000 a month subsidising the Waterside Theatre; £246,426 in 2013/14 on PR and marketing department