All council-run nurseries to close despite objections from 35,000 people and the town hall’s OWN councillors

Mums picket Tower Hamlets Council over nursery closures. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mums picket Tower Hamlets Council over nursery closures. Picture: Mike Brooke - Credit: Mike Brooke

Three council-run nurseries and a specialist deaf unit will shut down despite objections from councillors and more than 35,000 people.

Last month Tower Hamlets defied parents who argued that the plans to close Overland Nursery, which caters for children with special needs, as well as Mary Sambrook nursery in Wapping and John Smith nursery in Whitechapel, would leave parents without childcare options and force them out of work.

Protestors were thrown a lifeline when the council’s overview and scrutiny committee “called in” the decision and sent it back to the executive mayor for reconsideration.

But at a meeting of the council’s cabinet on Wednesday, Mayor John Biggs said the closures would go ahead despite the committee’s pleas.

“There is a clear financial challenge facing the council,” he said.

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“But also there is a question about equity and the way we provide under five services. I would like very much to have a comprehensive under-fives provision.

“This hasn’t been an easy decision but I think it is the right thing to do given the high costs to the local authority and relatively low reach.”

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Earlier this year a parents launched a petition against the nursery closures, which gained ten-of-thousands of signatures.

Mary Sambrook nursery in Wapping has already closed and John Smith nursery in Whitechapel is scheduled to close later this year.

Overlands will close next year. All three offer care to children under five for £4.84 an hour and open for longer hours than most private nurseries, including during school holidays.

Private nursery care for under-twos costs an average of £7.34 an hour in inner London, according to the Family and Childcare Trust.

A spokeswoman for the Save Our Nurseries campaign said: “The Mayor’s determination to close the Tower Hamlets local authority day nurseries and rely on the private sector to deliver the full-time care ignores the repeated attempts that parents have made to explain that expensive private nurseries are not set up to properly support children with special educational needs (SEN), who are often labelled as ‘difficult’ or complicated users.

“Parents and carers of children with SEN have explained how important they have found early intervention and the integrated care at these nurseries.”


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