Determined campaigners win reprieve

Kirklees nurseries

Determined campaigners win reprieve

KIRKLEES COUNCIL in west Yorkshire has been threatening to close three nurseries, Tiddlywinks, Cambridge Road and Sankofa. But a campaign by nursery school teachers and parents forced them to grant a temporary reprieve for all three at its last meeting on 21 March.

Mike Forster Huddersfield

Although the Tory/Lib Dem coalition managed to defeat a resolution calling for all three nurseries to be saved, a further resolution was passed for the closure programme to be suspended pending a more in-depth review and proper consultation with parents, staff and the community. This is an initial victory for the campaign.

Five weeks ago, council officers were confident that their recommended closure programme was going through. Against all the odds, a marvellous rearguard campaign, putting pressure on politicians and mobilising public opinion, has forced this climbdown.

We must continue to exert pressure on councillors across the board. It will not escape voters’ notice that this council was on the verge of shutting three vitally needed nurseries and they will become the focus of the election campaign over the next few weeks.

It is hoped an anti-closure candidate will emerge in the elections to challenge the local political establishment and join anti-health cuts councillor Jackie Grunsell in the battle to stop the erosion of public services. Parents and staff have clearly noticed the difference a socialist councillor can make in giving the campaign assistance and direction, which has helped win this reprieve.


Council cuts will force parents out of work

Michelle Shakespeare and Vicky Perrin spoke to Mel Mills before Kirklees council’s vote to temporarily reprieve the three nurseries. Mel is spokesperson for a campaign to stop Twiddlywinks, Cambridge Road and Sankofa nurseries closing; these nurseries are attended by over 100 children in total.

Mel and other parents aim to save these nurseries that have given their children a high standard of care for years. Mel’s youngest child attends Tiddlywinks nursery and she sends her other two children to the after-school club.

Mel is angry at threats to a nursery that is in high demand amongst parents. The council claimed the nurseries have been running at a loss of over £600,000, yet they are full to capacity with a substantial waiting list and collect a fee from parents.

“The council say most of these nurseries’ children will soon be at school”, Mel said. “But there are still babies at the nurseries and there is also the after-school club which my son goes to. Having somewhere to leave your children gives you peace of mind”.

This peace of mind is shared by fellow parents. The closure of three subsidised nurseries locally would force many parents to consider sending their children to private nurseries. But many simply cannot afford that. Mel explained: “It’s hard enough to get a job and, for some, without a place to put children, there will seem little point in working”.

The government says it wants to get parents back to work but these closure plans are simultaneously robbing parents of the means to do so. The nurseries are in Ashbrow, an area often described as being in need of regeneration; closing them would hit this already struggling community.

Mel stated: “Ashbrow will remain a deprived area if the council doesn’t give people the chance to make something of themselves. If you care about your children, you want to put them somewhere safe.

“Even if parents aren’t working they may be studying but if they don’t have the facilities to put their child in a safe place, they may not be able to work or study. If what we have already is good why take it away? The government wants us to go to work and we are working, so why force us back into the house?”

Parents have collected many signatures of support. The Socialist Party have offered help and backing. The council must recognise its responsibility to provide parents with affordable childcare.

On 17 March, we joined parents, nursery school teachers and others in a 100-strong protest march. Kirklees UNISON helped organise it and the Unique care strikers joined the demo. We successfully lobbied the 21 March full council meeting and now aim to save these three nurseries from the axe permanently.