Eleven days ago, Salford Council announced that it was to consult on the closure of all of its five OFSTED rated outstanding nurseries – Little Hulton Day Nursery, Barton Moss Day Nursery, Higher Broughton Day Nursery, Belvedere Day Nursery and Winton Day Nursery.
These nurseries look after 327 children, 87 of whom have special needs, and the closures would lead to over one hundred nursery workers' jobs being axed. At a meeting attended by hundreds of people last Saturday, both workers, parents and grandparents told of the devastating affect it would have on some of the city's most vulnerable young people (see previous Salford Star article – click here).
Salford City Mayor, Paul Dennett; Salford and Eccles MP Rebecca Long-Bailey and Children's Lead Member Lisa Stone all attacked Tory Government changes in funding for three and four year olds, which would leave a huge financial deficit forcing it to shut the five nurseries…
"We are making representations to the Government" Dennett angrily told the meeting. However, this afternoon, the Department of Education answered a Salford Star request for a comment on the nursery closures, insisting that Salford Council has had since 2016 to 'make representations to the Government'…
"Following our consultation in 2016 on the Early Years funding formula, councils must pass the vast majority of the funding they receive for the free entitlements for three and four year olds on to providers" said a spokesperson "Any council that had concerns around meeting these requirements could apply to the Department for increased flexibility…
"The Department has not received a request from Salford for increased flexibility…" they added, informing that the early years portion of Salford's Dedicated Schools Grant will increase by 8% in the next financial year - from £17.9million in 2017-18, to £19.4million in 2018-19.
On Saturday, the Council gave hand-outs to those attending the meeting quoting dizzying figures showing a "projected overspend" in 2018/19 of £1.75million…
"In 2016-17, the three and four year old free entitlement funding was £12.18million" it stated "The allocation in 2017/18 is estimated to be £14.1million. In 2016/17 the LA [Local Authority] retained £2.3million to pay for delivery of our local authority early years services, but because of the change above, we now can only currently retain £705,000. A similar amount of funding is estimated to be retained in 2018/19…"*
The City Mayor, Salford MP and other Labour councillors urged a joint campaign with the unions, parents and nursery staff against the Government… "We've got to stand up and make sure we fight as a community and that we're not going to take this lying down" said Rebecca Long-Bailey.
However, the meeting voted almost unanimously (Salford Mayor and some councillors excepted) to protest against Salford Council, as well as the Government, if the consultation on the closures wasn't stopped.
There was no sign of this yesterday as Salford Council issued a press release stating that a ninety day consultation will run from 26th February until 28th May…and that if a 'cost neutral solution' couldn't be found the nurseries would close.
However, if true that Salford Council hadn't even requested 'increased flexibility' for the new funding changes before announcing the proposed nursery closures, the Salford Mayor will come under even more pressure to halt the consultation until a request to, and an answer from the Government is forthcoming.
The Salford Star would have asked Salford Council for a response but the Council has not responded to requests for comments from the Star for over five years.
* Yesterday the Council also posted more information about the nurseries' finance on its website – click here for details
Main photo by Steven Speed shows the meeting voting in favour of halting any consultation on nursery closures, with a sea of aloft hands surrounding the Salford City Mayor