Ipswich MP Ben Gummer under fire from Labour over children’s centre closures

Then deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman and Ben Gummer outside Ipswich's Sure Start in Clapgate Lan

Then deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman and Ben Gummer outside Ipswich's Sure Start in Clapgate Lane in 2010 - Credit: Archant

Ipswich’s Labour parliamentary candidate has called for an apology from the town’s MP Ben Gummer over the county council’s decision to close nine children’s centres across Suffolk.

Borough leader David Ellesmere has accused the Conservative MP of breaking the promises he made during his 2010 election campaign –that children’s centres would be safe under a Tory government.

But Mr Gummer said Labour were “playing politics” with the lives of vulnerable children and families.

The decision was made by Suffolk County Council during its cabinet meeting last Tuesday and will see Meredith Road and Quayside in Ipswich close and their services moved to other venues.

Mr Ellesmere said: “In 2010 Ben Gummer claimed that children’s centres were safe with the Conservatives. It is blatantly obvious to everyone now that they are not. He should apologise to all the parents and children who have been let down.”

Children’s centres, formerly named Sure Start centres, offer support and advice to parents, as well as regular activities for children under five years old.

Mr Gummer said: “When I was elected there were nine children’s centres in Ipswich; there are currently 10. In 2010 there were 29,659 individual users of children’s centres in Suffolk; now there are 32,585 – an increase of 9.08%. So just on the facts, people will see that I have kept my promise to protect and expand Sure Start in Ipswich and Suffolk.

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“Labour should apologise now for scaring people back in 2010 that we were going to scrap Sure Start altogether, which was the lie they were putting about back then. They proved they could not be trusted then; the same applies now.”

Mr Gummer said the same number of hours that were delivered at Quayside will now be delivered closer to people’s homes, and some services will be brought to people’s houses.

He added: “This is a direct result of the recommendations of Frank Field and Naomi Eisenstadt – two leading experts on early years, who are willing to put children before politics – as am I. It is a pity that Ipswich Labour are unwilling to do the same.”

In 2010, Mr Gummer pledged that “Sure Start will be safe with a Conservative Government” when he went head-to-head with then cabinet minister Harriet Harman after she suggested that the Tories would not protect the service if they won the seat.

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