A national charity will take over the running of the borough’s Sure Start Children’s Centres, Hampshire County Council has announced.
Provider Action for Children will manage Basingstoke’s eight children’s centres from April 23.
The move has been heralded as a cut in bureaucracy and management costs for the cash-strapped county, which was previously in charge of running the facilities.
But campaigners rallying against the move fear a drop in service quality and provision.
Children’s services cabinet member, Councillor Roy Perry, said: “The provision of help in the early years is crucial for all children but most importantly vulnerable children. Hampshire is totally committed to the provision of a first class service.”
Last month the county council announced an additional £500,000 funding for speech and language therapy support through children’s centres.
“We remain very proud of our children’s centres and are committed to ensuring they go from strength to strength as we move into the future,” said Cllr Perry.
“As a local authority we will continue to shape the delivery of services and monitor the performance of centres to ensure the needs of young children and families within local communities continue to be met by children’s centre services.”
But Catherine Ovenden, from Save Our Children’s Centre Hampshire, which has been a fierce critic of Hampshire’s Sure Start shakeup, said: “These services were delivered so well by Hampshire County Council, and we worry that they will suffer terribly for saving what is really a tiny amount of money.
“We wonder if the future service will match what has previously been delivered and judged 93 per cent good or outstanding? We truly hope so, but Ofsted results for Action for Children run Centres elsewhere in the country are not nearly as good."
Her concern was echoed by Basingstoke South East county councillor Brian Gurden. He said: “Hampshire have saved £55m this year, which is good, but that includes £3m saved by offloading all our children’s centres to third party providers.
“That offloading is against the wishes of many parents and I believe it’s an important saving to many. We have always felt early years is crucial to developing children’s capacities to do better in later life and to get them on the right path.”