Vote calls on Tower Hamlets Mayor Rahman to reverse nursery closures

September's protest against nursery cuts outside the Town Hall

September's protest against nursery cuts outside the Town Hall - Credit: Archant

Councillors have voted overwhelmingly to demand Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman withdraws his plans to axe nurseries in London’s deprived East End.

The vote followed a deputation of mums to last night’s council meeting from four nurseries facing the cuts announced by the mayor’s cabinet in September, which would affect 150 toddlers. One of the nurseries, Overlanders in Bow, even provides special care for deaf children.

“These nurseries provide affordable childcare, especially for vulnerable children with disabilities and special needs,” Alicja Topij told councillors.

“Poverty is rocketing in the East End. We cannot afford private nurseries that would cost up to £500-a-month more than in the public sector.

“Private nurseries charge between £1,000 and £1,500 a month on average for a full-time place.”

The mums who have been campaigning for two months were backed across the political spectrum from Labour to Tories—but excluding the mayor’s own Tower Hamlets First caucus which opposed the call.

Labour’s Shiria Khatun said: “The mayor needs to think about the social and emotional impact that closures will have on vulnerable kids—does he not have a heart?

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“I urge him to make a decision and tell the parents now that he will not be closing these nurseries and that the vulnerable children will have a place to go to for their education.”

Half the children in the East End grow up in poverty, Labour’s Amy Whitelock Gibbs pointed out, where too many don’t meet the expected levels of development.

She added: “The needs of disabled children would not be met in the private sector. There is a huge lack or nursery places already.”

The Tories’ Andrew Wood, supporting Labour’s motion, called for principles “like what is really important to us and what can we do without.”

The Mayor’s group blamed the cuts on the Government reducing the council’s spending by £100m over three years.

The group’s Shahed Ali said: “We’ve been put in a difficult position by a Tory government that’s chosen to slash our budgets so that we’re forced to make very difficult decisions.

“The reason I can’t support this motion us because it’s asking us to totally withdraw our proposal. It would be immature to make an off-the-cuff decision when we already plan to consult on how best to provide for our children.”

But the minority administration was overwhelmingly defeated in the vote calling on the mayor to make a U-turn on the nurseries.

The final decision, however, rests with his personal executive powers over the authority.