MORE than 900 people have backed a campaign calling for a community centre to be saved – but town hall chiefs have rejected claims the council is behind a decision to shut it.

The Shining Lights Centre, based within the grounds of Sutton Manor Primary School, on Forest Road, houses parents and toddler groups, sports activities, youth clubs, pensioner meetings and many other gatherings.

It has been shut during the pandemic and earlier this week the Shining Lights Centre Facebook page issued a notice saying the venue would be closing permanently.

The message said it would lead to 60 hours per week of community activities being lost and eight people losing their jobs.

The statement pointed the finger at St Helens Borough Council and the primary school for deciding to close the site with immediate effect – but this prompted the local authority to issue a strong rebuttal on Friday to the claims made on social media.

In a statement, Jim Leivers, interim director of children's services at St Helens Borough Council denied the council was to blame and that the school had taken the decision due to a lack of funding caused by the pandemic.

The statement read: "It has been brought to our attention there has been criticism of St Helens Borough Council in social media posts around the closure of The Shining Lights Centre.

"This is a centre run from the local school, St Helens Borough Council does not fund the centre and made no decision on its closure.

"We understand that decisions have been taken by the school and these have been based on the lack of funding they are receiving as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic."

The Sutton Manor Primary School website describes the centre as being "under the control of St Helens Council and managed by the governing body of the school". The venue is usually available for lettings and hire.

An existing statement on the school's website states that the centre is currently closed due to the COVID pandemic and that the situation would be reviewed in the near future to "enable the safe opening of the centre to the community".

The school could not be contacted tonight to check on the current position.

Meanwhile, more than 900 people have signed an online petition calling for the venue to be saved.

The statement on the Shining Lights Centre's Facebook page, which encouraged people to contact local councillors about the issue, said the organisation would aim to find other premises.

The statement added: "We really hope to be able to find an alternative building to continue to offer all these wonderful services in the near future but for now we need to focus on helping ourselves and our staff to find employment as well as find a solution for storing all our equipment.

"Thank you so much to all of the community for allowing us to be a part of your lives for the past 8 years as we watched you and your children grow into some amazing people. Hopefully we will see you all soon."