Reports and Campaigns
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Tales from the council chamber
Nurseries campaign embarrasses councillors
THE STRUGGLE to save three Huddersfield nurseries from closure has entered a critical stage. The council has now completed its review of nursery provision in the area which it will present to staff and parents for comment and consultation.
Initially, the lead councillor for Children's Services, Councillor Dodds had hoped to present his findings and sneak off to the Cabinet to ratify closures. He said he would give the campaign two weeks to respond to his new proposals!
At the same time, staff had been told by their managers to expect all three nurseries to close. The campaign swung into action and issued a press release that the timetable was unrealistic and the consultation was a sham.
Leading parents' campaigner Mel Mills threatened the council with a judicial review if they tried to press ahead on these terms.
At the same time Save Our NHS councillor, Jackie Grunsell, tabled a motion to the next council meeting demanding a more honest review and a reasonable timetable. Once the press got hold of the story, Dodds rang Mel and asked what she wanted from him!
By the time of the council meeting at the end of June Councillor Dodds was in retreat. Mel Mills addressed the full council meeting, demanding more honesty from the officers and a right to be properly consulted. The meeting then debated Jackie's resolution which was being supported by the Labour group.
The Lib Dems are in an alliance with the Tories, but the Lib Dem leader said he intended to support the resolution which would have left Dodds in a minority. He twice presented fresh amendments to the resolution until all the demands of Jackie's original resolution were met.
Councillor Dodds was forced to concede a six-week period for consultation and agreed to meet the parents and staff on an evening of their choice to explain the outcome of the review. The debate lasted an hour, and it was incredible to see every political group (apart from the BNP who as usual have nothing to say on the matter) scrambling to try and secure political capital out of the campaign.
The only people to emerge from the meeting with any honour were Mel and Jackie who forced the council into an embarrassing U turn.
The fight will now turn to the council's so-called review. If as expected they still try and uphold the closures, political pressure will be exerted on the other parties to stand up and be counted. Not one politician wants to be seen to be linked to these closures, including Dodds himself who asked parents to be 'understanding of the pressures of public life'.
Public support, intense political lobbying, and ongoing publicity will not allow the council to push this issue under the doormat. The campaign remains confident and determined that their nurseries will stay open!