Harman faces Tory demo

IPSWICH: Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman went head-to-head with Tory challenger Ben Gummer at the start of a visit to a Sure Start centre in the town.

Ms Harman, in Ipswich to support Labour’s Chris Mole, was greeted by a small possee of Conservative demonstrators as she arrived at the Treehouse Sure Start centre in Clapgate Lane.

They accused her of scaremongering over claims that an incoming Conservative government would close centres like this in an attempt to save money.

Tory councillor Paul West said: “We have said we will not close centres like Sure Start – they will remain open under a Conservative government.”

However in a confrontation with Mr Gummer, Mr Harman was blunt in her assessment of the Conservatives’ promises.

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“Frankly I don’t trust you as far as I can throw you!” she said.

Speaking during her visit to the centre, Ms Harman said Sure Start centres had been set up across the country by the Labour government in the teeth of opposition from the Conservatives.

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She said: “Centres like this are vital for families and provide wonderful support – it is thanks to the Labour government and pressure from people like Chris (Mole) that there are centres like this in Ipswich.

“When you hear the Conservatives talking about cuts to public expenditure and knowing what their attitude was to Sure Start in the first place, I simply don’t trust them on this issue – and I would urge people who value these kind of services to reflect on that.”

The centre is one of three in Ipswich and has 3,000 families registered with it. About 300-400 children go through it every week and about 80 go to a nursery there.

Her visit came shortly after the shadow chief secretary of the Treasury, Philip Hammond, was in Ipswich to support Mr Gummer.

He met business leaders in the town to hear what they wanted from a new government: “They told me that they wanted reform from the public sector in the same way that they had seen in the private sector.”

But he denied this meant that public sector employees should be worried about the return of a Labour governement: “About eight per cent of public servants leave their job every year – there is no reason to fear major job cuts in this sector,” he added.

How valuable is Sure Start? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook St, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningsta.co.uk

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