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Children’s day-care nurseries to close in shock plans by Tower Hamlets Council

PUBLISHED: 12:05 25 June 2018 | UPDATED: 16:30 26 June 2018

Toddlers join mums' town hall protest in 2017 against nursrery closure threat. Picture: Mike Brooke

Toddlers join mums' town hall protest in 2017 against nursrery closure threat. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Children’s day-care nurseries run by Tower Hamlets Council are planned to be closed down—with the first shutting in five weeks.

Picket outside Tower Hamlets' cabinet meeting in 2017 at launch of campaign against nursery privatisation or closures. Picture: Mike BrookePicket outside Tower Hamlets' cabinet meeting in 2017 at launch of campaign against nursery privatisation or closures. Picture: Mike Brooke

A third wave of public consultations in four years is to be held into the closure of its three day-care centres.

The closures come in the face of widespread opposition, including mums who lobbied the town hall last year with their toddlers and handed a petition to mayor John Biggs.

The Mary Sambrook nursery in The Highway, Shadwell, is the first to go next month, the East London Advertiser has learned.

Toddler hands mayor John Biggs petition from mums and dads to stop Tower Hamlets closing its day care nurseries. Picture: Mike BrookeToddler hands mayor John Biggs petition from mums and dads to stop Tower Hamlets closing its day care nurseries. Picture: Mike Brooke

This would be followed in December by John Smith nursery at Stepney Way, Stepney Green, and early next year the Overland nursery at Parnell Road in Bow.

Some 22 children are due to be enrolled in September, when the latest round of public consultations begin.

Places are being promised either at six nursery schools with ‘early years’ learning, or at other day-care centres, with no child left without a suitable place.

Overland nursery in Bow now finally facing closure by Tower Hamlets Council. Picture: Mike BrookeOverland nursery in Bow now finally facing closure by Tower Hamlets Council. Picture: Mike Brooke

“This is difficult news for the parents of children that were due to start at these nurseries from September,” the mayor said in a statement.

“But funding cuts have made it clear that it’s simply unfair continuing to run these three nurseries at £15,000 a child. We will find alternative suitable places.”

The cash to run day-care nurseries ends from September. The council is facing what the mayor calls “tough choices” with government funding wiping out £58m from the council’s overall budget every year since 2015.

Protest poster by children and their mums against nursery closures. Picture: Mike BrookeProtest poster by children and their mums against nursery closures. Picture: Mike Brooke

Protests in 2017 were sparked by a council move to put out commercial contracts to run the three day-care centres, including Overland which gives specialist care for deaf children.

One of the mums, Nouruja Rahman, told the Advertiser today: “The thought of having day-care nurseries privatised was outrageous, but to have them closed will be 100 times worse.

“This was kept hush and not mentioned in the mayor’s May election manifesto. He is taking away something incredibly special and vital in our community and we are furious.

“These are vital nurseries for children with special needs and mums who are struggling to work to pay fees.”

The closure plans, revealed in a council cabinet paper being discussed on Wednesday, promises to help low-income families get government allowances for 15 free day-care hours a week for two-year-olds and for all three and four-year-olds, while also helping primary and nursery schools to provide holiday childcare for the under-fives.

Children at the three day-care centres would be offered places at six council nursery schools where they begin ‘early years’ learning, rather than just receiving day-care. An open day is planned from 1pm on Monday at Children’s House nursery school in Bruce Road, Bromley-by-Bow, for parents to look round who are being hit by the closures.

The authority’s ‘early years’ education director Christine McInnes told the Advertiser: “The day nurseries provide childcare rather than early education with only 100 being enrolled—there are also many alternative childcare centres.

“Only two children were attending Sambrook this summer, so it may not reopen after the holiday following September’s public consultations.”

The cost of running the day-care nurseries is what is sealing their fate. The ‘early years’ budget pays £15,000 for each child, compared to £1,700 in nursery schools.

The campaigning mums suggested day-care nurseries should be used as summer play centres charging fees to bring in revenue to keep them open.

The council pledged in 2014 to keep its four day-care nurseries open following a public outcry, despite a £100m gap in government funding—but then closed one of them anyway, Queen Mary nursery, the following year.

Now a third wave of consultations starts in September over the fate of the remaining three, with Sambrook unlikely to reopen after closing for the holidays.

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