Unison calls on Tower Hamlets cabinet to fight government cuts and stop nursery closures
- Credit: Mike Brooke
An impassioned trade union senior official pleaded today at Tower Hamlets cabinet to stop the council’s planned nursery closures and join their fight against government cuts.
Unison’s Tower Hamlets branch secretary John McLoughlin urged the mayor not to go ahead with proposals for closing Mary Sambrook nursery in Shadwell in five weeks’ time, followed in December by John Smith nursery in Stepney and early next year the Overland nursery in Bow.
The closures go to public consultations in September, for the third time in four years.
“The root of the closure problem is government under-funding for children’s services,” Mr McLoughlin told the cabinet.
“But the challenge is whether the council is standing together with parents and staff fighting for the funding and defending the most-vulnerable.
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The cost of looking after children at risk, or the most vulnerable or those with special needs is always going to be higher than the average. It’s whether the council puts a premium on looking after those children.
“People feel betrayed by this proposal which has come out of the blue. There are passionate feelings about it.
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“I appeal to this authority to stand with the community. Stand with the children. Stand with the nursery staff—fight for the funding form the government and don’t just close our day nurseries down.”
The union claims the nurseries have been systematically run down and are not being allowed to take children in, despite long waiting lists which artificially puts up the cost of child care, while cutting early years care “cuts their life chances for ever”.
The cabinet agreed on the plans which call for a third public consultation since 2014.
The mums protested at the town hall last year with their toddlers and handed a petition to mayor John Biggs when the council wanted outside contractors to take over running the nurseries.
Campaigner Nouruja Rahman told the East London Advertiser: “The thought of having day-care nurseries privatised last year was outrageous, but to have them closed will be 100 times worse.
“These nurseries are vital for children with special needs and mums who are already struggling to work to pay fees. The mayor is taking away something incredibly special and vital in our community.”
There are 22 children due to be enrolled at the nurseries in September, when the public consultations begin.
The council is promising alternative places at six nursery schools or at other day-care centres, with “no child left without a suitable place”.
The mayor conceded that it was “difficult news” for parents. But he was facing “tough choices” having £58m erased by government cuts to the council’s overall budget every year since 2015. Government cash for the day-care nurseries runs out in September, which means the authority can’t afford costs of £15,000 a child, compared to £1,700 in nursery schools.
An open day is planned on Monday for parents affected by the closures to look round Children’s House nursery school in Bruce Road, Bromley-by-Bow, from 1pm, which is said to be able to offer places.