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‘Mum’s the word’ as parents forced into silent protest at Tower Hamlets cabinet meeting over nursery closures

PUBLISHED: 17:36 26 July 2018 | UPDATED: 08:21 31 July 2018

Not allowed to speak at Tower Hamlets cabinet... mums protesting over nursery closures. Picture: Mike Brooke

Not allowed to speak at Tower Hamlets cabinet... mums protesting over nursery closures. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Mums turned up to address Tower Hamlets cabinet meeting with a plea against closing down their children’s nurseries—but were barred from speaking.

Tower Hamlets cabinet meeting... but there's no nursery item on the agenda. Picture: Mike BrookeTower Hamlets cabinet meeting... but there's no nursery item on the agenda. Picture: Mike Brooke

The issue wasn’t listed on the cabinet’s agenda last night, only included in passing as part of a report about council spending strategy.

So the four campaigners sat with tape across their mouths, then walked out to raise a banner in front of the town hall claiming the mayor wants to “mum the word” on day nursery consultations—still wearing their gaffer tape gags.

“There was nothing on the agenda concerning the nurseries,” the mayor told the East London Advertiser.

“I wasn’t aware the mums had requested to speak. There are places I’d like to speak at, like parliament where I’d give Theresa May a piece of my mind about cutting out nursery budgets. The mums turned up at the cabinet to do a photo stunt, rather than say anything.”

Mayor wants to 'mum the word' on day nurseries, these mums declare outside Tower Hamlets Town Hall.  Picture: Mike BrookeMayor wants to 'mum the word' on day nurseries, these mums declare outside Tower Hamlets Town Hall. Picture: Mike Brooke

There is a public consultation on the nursery issue, he pointed out, which they could respond to.

The mayor added: “I know we won’t stop hearing from them—they have a right to let us know what they think.”

But the mums, who have organised a petition to stop day-care nursery closures, had things to say once outside with their banner, having ripped off the gaffer tape after their protest was snapped.

Candace Reading, from Mile End, tried to get her child into one of the three special day care nurseries under threat, but was told it was full—with 125 children on the waiting list.

“We really do need these specialist nurseries,” she said. “The problem is early intervention with some conditions is important before they reach their third birthday—they never get that capacity to learn again. Children can start from as early as six months at Overland if they are fee paying.”

Michelle Loftus, schoolteacher from Bethnal Green, has a son with special educational needs and was refused places at four nurseries.

She said: “I put in for a special educational needs plan and have been waiting for 12 months—meanwhile my child is a year older without that special care.”

A delegation of mums and Unison trade union did get a chance to speak chance at June’s cabinet meeting with an impassioned plea to stop the planned nursery closures and join the Unison trade union fight against government cuts.

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