Council looks to close Aylesbury’s Jonathan Page Centre

Howard Mordue
Howard Mordue

A council leisure boss has recommended closing the Jonathan Page Centre in Aylesbury in a bid to cut costs.

Councillor Howard Mordue says Aylesbury Vale District Council should cease its £63,000 funding of the Meadowcroft-based child care centre by September 2014.

It comes as the council looks to make £2.4 million in cuts following a reduction in the grant it gets from government.

The number of children using the after-school club has declined by 30% from 4,927 in 2009/10 to 3,256 in 2012/13.

Numbers attending the holiday play scheme are also down 10% to 2,930.

It has costs of £157,000 but only makes an income of £98,000.

Mr Mordue, cabinet member for leisure, said: “We are facing massive financial pressures due to cuts from central government and this means we have to review every service to see where money can be saved and new income generated. We are looking at what is affordable, necessary and practical and reviewing our capacity.

“The Jonathan Page Play Centre has provided valued help and support for families from all backgrounds over the past 13 years and it is unfortunate that the facility is no longer financially viable in its current format.

“I would like to reassure parents that the Jonathan Page Play Centre will continue to run as it does currently until at least the end of the summer school term in 2014, and we will continue to offer the best possible service for their children whilst the review is taking place.”

The Jonathan Page, which is managed by the council, was opened in 2000 as part of the new Quarrendon and Meadowcroft Community Centre complex. It followed the devastating fire at the original Jonathan Page building which was owned by the Aylesbury Vale Play Association.

The after-school runs Monday to Friday from 3.15pm to 6pm with collection services from the Thomas Hickman, Turnfurlong and Buckingham Park schools. Activities enjoyed by children include crafts, sports, music and go-karting.

The cost per hour starts at £3 and increases for those ferried to the centre from schools.

Mr Mordue’s report puts the decrease in numbers down to an increase in rival after-school clubs run by individual schools and the recession which has forced parents to use friends and family for childcare.

It adds that while most users come from ‘comfortable communities’, the centre is located in ‘one of the more deprived areas of Aylesbury’ and it ‘appears that the perception of the area is putting off potential business’.

The centre employs five staff.

The council says there is an opportunity to redeploy these staf to run clubs in schools which do not currently provide this service.

‘Options’ for the building will also be ‘identified’.

Bucks County Council also rents part of the centre for its Sure Start centre. The report says the Jonathan Page’s closure ‘may require serving notice on Sure Start’.

The council’s cabinet will vote on Mr Mordue’s proposal on Thursday, December 17. It will then go before full council for final approval.