Angry parents storm out of council meeting over Jonathan Page closure

The Jonathan Page Centre
The Jonathan Page Centre

Concerned parents pleaded with council chiefs to extend the deadline for the closure of the Jonathan Page Centre last night.

But despite the recommendations of Aylesbury Vale District Council’s scrutiny committee, the cabinet voted not to extend their support for the centre until April next year.

However it said it would be ‘considerate’ about the date of withdrawing funding from the centre, planned for September, if negotiations are near to a conclusion.

But parents and campaigners fear there may not be enough time to find a new operator.

Mum Gill Lazonby says she may have to give up her marketing career if the centre closes down.

She said: “Closure is now a real fear.

“I will have to think about my child care and would have to go part time or change my career.

“The staff will also now have to look for new jobs and we all have only six months to sort something out.

“Parents who would have sent their children there will ask serious questions about whether to send them now, as it is not guaranteed anymore. This undermines the centre even further.”

The cabinet heard from a number of speakers, urging them to reconsider the September deadline.

These included Mike Smith, leader of Aylesbury Town Council, who said his authority had a ‘strong and serious interest’ in taking on the running of the centre.

Following the decision not to extend the deadline a number of angry parents stormed out.

One man shouted to the cabinet that there was no point in going to public meetings, because the council does not listen to the public.

Cabinet members claimed that a number of organisations had shown an interest in taking on the Jonathan Page Centre, and cabinet member Neil Blake, leader of the district council, said that if negotiations on a takeover were at a pivotal stage the deadline would be extended.

Members also claimed that the September deadline would help to ‘focus the mind’ of those trying to find a suitable takeover option.

Last December the cabinet proposed to withdraw funding from the Meadowcroft-based centre, which costs taxpayers £60,000 a year, in September. It said that with an average of 17 regular users a day, it was being underused and heavily subsidised by taxpayers’ money.

Councillor Howard Mordue, cabinet member for leisure said: “While we can’t afford to keep funding the Jonathan Page Play Centre, we will monitor the situation come September, providing there are active bids in place.

“We’ve listened to parents’ comments and realise the importance of the service offered. I, as much as anyone else, hope that a solution can be found to suit all sides.”

It was decided that officers would continue investigating the option of leasing the available building space to an alternative occupier.