Just two days before a potentially embarrassing Save Our Nurseries demonstration, Salford City Mayor, Paul Dennett, has announced that Salford Council has found £1.5million to keep the threatened five local authority nurseries open until at least September 2019.
Salford Council originally intended to begin a consultation to shut the nurseries one month ago but after a huge public meeting opposing the move, the Mayor postponed its start for a further month, while a joint campaign with parents, staff and unions aimed to lobby the Government for funding flexibility.
The threat to the nurseries came after a change in the Department of Education formula for Early Years funding, meaning the Council has to pass on 95% of its Government grants to other childcare providers this year. It stated that it would be unable to retain enough finance to keep its own five OFSTED rated 'outstanding' nurseries open.
In response, the Department of Education told the Salford Star that it would be 'flexible' on how the funding was used – but that Salford City Council hadn't actually asked for flexibility. Indeed the letter to the Government, jointly signed by the Mayor and Salford Conservative Party leader, Les Turner, was only finally sent recently. It is not known whether a response has been received (see here and see here)
Meanwhile, the consultation on closing the nurseries was due to begin on Monday, which would have proved incredibly embarrassing for the Mayor and other Labour Party MPs who are due to speak at a big Save Our Nurseries march and rally this Saturday.
Last night, Paul Dennett did another huge but welcome U-turn, announcing at a meeting of parents and unions that he had found £1.5million of Council funding to keep the five nurseries open until at least September 2019.
The consultation on the nurseries future will, however, still go ahead on Monday, although the option to close them has been removed.
"We are relieved that the Mayor has confirmed the status of the nurseries for the next 12 months and that he has agreed to put another £1.5million of Council money into them for that period" wrote Salford UNISON branch secretary, Steven North, reporting via social media on the meeting with the Mayor.
"However, the majority present were confused that a consultation on the future beyond September 2019 will commence as early as next week" he added "We had a long debate (nearly two hours) on this. The view of the majority in the room (myself included) was that a delay in any changes meant that any consultation could commence either later this year or early next year if we did not receive additional Government funding, and that any consultation at this point would only confuse matters when we should be focussed on campaigning.
"We will continue to make our views known about the consultation, but at the same time it should not be missed that the nurseries will stay open for at least another 12 months as Council nurseries" he explained "That means parents and workers can have security for at least another 12 months and should hopefully no longer see the need to look for other jobs or place their children in other settings.
"We still need to demand the money from Government as if we secure it before September 2019 then we can keep these nurseries open as Council nurseries for the longer term" he concluded "That is why the march and rally need to be as big as they possibly can be on Saturday."
The demonstration takes place this Saturday, 24th March, beginning at Victoria Park in Swinton at 11am, with a march to Salford Civic Centre for a rally on the lawn.
Speaking will be Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Ashton MP, Angela Rayner, plus all three Salford MPs – Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton), Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) and Rebecca Long-Bailey (Salford and Eccles)...
"These nurseries rated outstanding are exceptional due to the dedication of staff and parents who support them" says Rebecca Long-Bailey "To see them close would be devastating for families and staff, which is why we must campaign hard to stop this happening. Austerity is a political choice not an economic necessity and the people of our community should not have to suffer any longer."
Campaigner, Kelly Bentham, who has a child at one of the nurseries threatened with closure, adds: "Having worked in both private and public sector nurseries, I know first-hand that private sector nurseries are more expensive, less likely to provide specialist services and leave children with lower rates of school-readiness. There's simply no alternative to publicly owned nurseries when it comes to quality, accessibility and outcomes."
The five nurseries affected by the consultation are 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.
March and Rally To Save Our Nurseries
Saturday 24th March
Assemble Victoria Park 11am
Manchester Road, Swinton M27 4UR
For further details see March and Rally To Save Our Nurseries Facebook event page - click here
For a full background see previous Salford Star articles...
Over 100 Workers Could Lose Jobs in Salford Nursery Massacre - click here
Hundreds of People Pack Save Our Nurseries Public Meeting - click here
Salford Council U-turn on Nursery Closure Consultation - click here