Campaigners ‘thrown a lifeline’ in fight to save council-run nuseries in Tower Hamlets

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

Parents fighting the closure of three council-run nurseries and a specialist deaf unit in the borough have been “thrown a lifeline” by councillors.

Earlier this month Tower Hamlets Council defied parents who argued that plans to shut the subsidised day nurseries would leave women without childcare options and force them out of work.

Executive mayor John Biggs made the decision to permanently close Overland Nursery, which houses the deaf unit, John Smith nursery in Whitechapel and Mary Sambrook nursery in Wapping, saying the facilities were “too costly” and helped relatively few children.

However, his Labour colleagues “called in” the closure plan and are urging the mayor to think again.

At an overview and scrutiny meeting on Tuesday night councillor Marc Francis said the local Labour party had fought against the closure plans when they were proposed under the former disgraced mayor Lutfur Rahman.

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He said: “This is about the way decisions get made in this town hall.

“In 2014 the previous mayor came forward with a plan to close these nurseries. We fought it.

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“There has been a suggestion that people have been playing games with us to get us through elections.

“We are now [making] the same point Lutfur Rahman made to close the nurseries down.”

Ten of the eleven 11 overview and scrutiny committee councillors endorsed the call in.

The decision will now be considered by the council’s legal officer and the monitoring officer.

If they decided the closures contravene the council’s policy framework, it will be sent to full council later this year.

If the officers advise that the closure decision does not contravene council policy, it will be referred back to the mayor for reconsideration.

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