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Fighting to save Coventry's last two play centres
Parents and children who use Edgwick and Eagle Street play centres took to the streets of Coventry on Saturday as part of their campaign to save the city's last two play centres. The centres face closure as part of the council's latest cuts.
Speaking outside the council house, Nebiyu, one of the children using Eagle Street play centre said: "It's wrong to close play centres. They are somewhere safe to go."
One nanny present confirmed that, saying that her grandson "suffered bullying at school and the play centre was the only socialising he gets with kids his own age."
Protest organiser Simon Evans says the campaign will go on. "The support from parents and kids has been marvellous and our local schools including St Elizabeth's and our local police centre are determined to help us keep this open, and have spoken out with their concerns if they are to be closed."
Simon's daughter Kimberly said: "Most of these kids, like me, have made brilliant friends. It's so sad."
The play centre provides a service six days a week (3pm to 5.30pm; 10am to 2.30pm Saturdays) and the site is used to run a youth club on three evenings. George Sands of Unison says it will mean the loss of more female, part-time jobs. He believes the council plans to hand the building over to a private firm for an under two's nursery. "But why can't both services use the facility?"
Jane Nellist of the NUT teachers' union, and secretary of Coventry Trades Union Council, said: "Play is central to children's development and there should be many more play centres, not none! It cannot be right that in Coventry we will have two giant universities and no play centres."
Jane attacked government cuts, pointing out that Britain is a rich country but that if play centres are being closed then the money is in the wrong hands.
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Austerity: How many more protests like this do we have to witness outside the council house?
Coventry Socialist Party supported and will continue to support the protest of the play centre campaigners and believes it is sad that year after year we have seen countless groups of Coventry people campaigning to save services. From schools, disabled workshops, youth clubs, play centres, swimming baths and so many more. When will this be enough for local councils to say enough is enough?
Dave Nellist warmed to this theme. He said it was shameful that we had to see "kids and parents defending play centres outside the council house and not one councillor was here. What are councillors there for if not to defend our city and its people's services?"
He added: "...the council now has £84 million in reserves, and what would it cost to keep these play centres open? £100,000?"
They could be kept open, he argued, while a campaign is built to fight to win back some of the money that the government has stolen from our city.
In the parents own words: Why a play centre is so important
Simon Evans: My children Kimberly, aged 11 and Rhian, aged 7 will be affected by the closure. Kimberly is now at secondary school and her favourite thing to do is to play football, which if not for the play centre, she would rarely be able to do this as she feels unable to join the boys at her school to play, while her girl friends there do not play.
Rhian has built up a lot of confidence since she started going to the play centre. When she first went she would not speak to more than a few children. Now she speaks to several children there, and even joins in with games. I am very concerned with the safety of the park if the play centre closes, as the staff there report any suspicious activity that they witness to the local police.
Lucy O'Donoghue whose child Saskia goes to the play centre, states: "The closure of the play centre will have a very big negative impact on our family. I am a single mum with no transport and limited resources, my daughter is an only child and the play centre provide a safe, positive, multicultural, tolerant environment for her to play in, and trips to go on."
Lisa Achrar whose children Adriam and Mishara go to the play centre says: "It will mean I would be unable to work to provide for my family".
Salma Begum whose child Muhammed goes there says: "There will be nowhere to go. If parents need to go to work they will know that children are safe without having to worry."
Roxanne Richmond whose child Olivia goes there says: "The play centre has a huge impact on Olivia's social skills and enables her to mix with the children from all sorts of backgrounds and ethnic groups; This enables her to become more confident and has brought her lots of new social skills."
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 1 February 2016 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.