What was originally planned as a lobby of Salford City Council this morning, instead became a 'press launch' for the campaign to Save Salford Nurseries.
Salford City Mayor, Paul Dennett, is proposing to close five OFSTED-rated outstanding nurseries run by the Council but, after a huge backlash, paused the consultation for a month to "allow the Council, trade unions, local MPs and parents and staff who would be affected if the nurseries had to close, to lobby the Government for funding to keep them open and under local authority control..." (see here)
A public meeting attended by hundreds of people eleven days ago voted in favour of two motions...
The first was to "delay any consultation or alternative proposals and use that time to campaign for the money we need, and we should all stand together to demand that money..."
The second was that "Unless the Council withdraws the threat of closure and consultation, a lobby of the Labour Group and the full Council meeting...will take place" (see here).
Despite the Council not 'withdrawing the threat of closure and consultation', the campaign was launched at the Civic Centre this morning, with everyone 'standing together to demand that money'.
On the top table was Salford City Mayor, Paul Dennett, his two Deputy Mayors, John Merry and Paula Boshell, Salford UNISON officer, Ameen Hadi, and nursery worker, Leza Moreton. In the audience were parents and staff, activists and Labour councillors...
"I know that these five local authority nurseries are really regarded by the people of this city" said Dennett "They also sit in some of the most deprived wards...We need to do our best to campaign on this issue."
His proposal to close the nurseries came on the back of national changes to Direct Schools Grant funding for three and four year olds, the Mayor explained. From next year, the Council has to pass on 95% of the Grant to child care providers in the city in the private, independent and third sector, which means that the Council cannot retain as much money as previously.
In what Dennett called a "tinkering of methodology", the agenda behind it was that of privatisation, via compulsory competitive tendering, begun years ago by Tory Minister Norman Lamont and continued by previous Labour Governments.
Dennett accepted that the Department of Education had given Salford Council more money, but, he added, the city had more children and more childcare providers.
"We have five outstanding nurseries and we need to do all we can to campaign for them" he concluded.
Over the next few nights and at the weekend, meetings are taking place with parents and staff to push the campaign forward. For details see the Facebook group Save our 5 OUTSTANDING rated Sure Start Nurseries – click here
See also previous Salford Star article – Salford Councillors To Lobby Themselves Over Nursery Closures - click here
Photos by Gareth Lyons