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Furious mums leave council holding the baby in protest at play centre closure

PUBLISHED: 16:16 23 February 2007 | UPDATED: 14:28 07 September 2010

ANGRY parents left their children with Camden councillors on Wednesday night. The parents, protesting at the closure of Kilburn Grange Play Centre on Messina Avenue, took their children to the Town Hall and left them in the hands of the co

Haroon Siddique

ANGRY parents left their children with Camden councillors on Wednesday night.

The parents, protesting at the closure of Kilburn Grange Play Centre on Messina Avenue, took their children to the Town Hall and left them in the hands of the council executive.

They were hoping to force councillors to look after a group of noisy four to seven-year-olds would make them rethink the decision to close the centre.

Tracy Jones said: "This place is so valuable to me. The standard of care is excellent and the fact that it's in a local park means on a lovely hot day they can go over to the park.

"I know the kids will be gutted if it closes, it's absolutely outrageous."

The centre provides after-school facilities for children, many from single parent families, and also holiday play schemes.

Camden Council told parents in January of its plans and will vote on the closure on Wednesday.

It justified the plans on the basis that it is more expensive than other playcentres because it has a staff ratio of one member to every eight children.

Other centres are only required to have a ratio of one member of staff to every 10 children because they cater for older children aged from four to 11.

Ms Jones's son Ryan, aged five, and her seven-year-old daughter Shannon are regulars at Kilburn Grange.

Shannon said: "It's the best place in Camden because I have been here since I was four. I'd cry if it closed. I have made lots of friends. The staff are helpful."

Penelope Lyndon-Stanford has two grandchildren who attend the centre and both their mums are single mothers.

She said: "It means my daughters can go to work - it would be impossible for them otherwise. I look after them when I can, but I am not as young as I used to be and it's dull to be with Grandmother everyday.

"This place is very nice because it's by the playground."

Another mum, Sian Evans, said some of the mothers are considering legal action to challenge the planned closure.

"They selected this playcentre because they say it's comparatively more expensive," she said. "What's cheapest isn't always best.

"They have to look again at what impact it's going to have on us and the community - people are being driven to breaking point."

Councillor John Bryant, children's spokesman and a West Hampstead councillor, said: "It costs currently eight per cent more than the average cost of a place elsewhere.

"We have made plans for the children affected to go to Fortune Green nursery and Kingsgate school. If parents look carefully at the alternative provision I don't think they're going to lose out."

haroon.siddique@hamhigh.co.uk


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