Just two days after parents, staff, unions and campaigners marched with the Salford City Mayor, councillors and local MPs to 'Fight For The Five' Council run nurseries, and to keep them open, a consultation has been launched to look at alternatives. There's also a series of incredibly short notice meetings.
In the consultation opening explanation, the Council states that the "consultation is to find a more cost effective way to deliver the Local Authority nurseries; it is NOT about ceasing the services that the nurseries provide..."
However, the questions that follow, of which there are only three meaningful ones, appear to be leading to alternative providers...
Do you agree with the proposal to find a more cost effective way of delivering the 5 Nurseries?
Would you be interested in running all or one of the LA Nurseries?
Given the financial constraints of the Local Authority it is no longer considered financially sustainable to continue running the Nurseries under the current arrangements. Do you have any other comments or suggestions regarding alternative, suitable and sustainable options for continued delivery by the Nurseries that does not require financial subsidy by the Local Authority and/or proposals that will achieve the necessary savings elsewhere from the Council's budget?
All this after Labour Party politicians stood on a platform with parents on Saturday saying how wonderful the five threatened Council-run nurseries are, and backing the parents and nursery workers' fight to keep them under public control.
It now appears obvious that, unless the Tory Government agrees to be flexible in its new funding formula, Salford Council and City Mayor, Paul Dennett, will be seeking to shut the actual nurseries, while handing the services themselves to other providers.
The carefully worded statement by the Council explains that "it is NOT about ceasing the services that the nurseries provide" - but doesn't state anywhere that it is about looking to find ways to actually keep the nurseries open. The £1.5million found by the Mayor last week only guarantees the funding until September 2019.
Salford anti-cuts campaigners will remember that the same tactic was employed with adult day care centres (a one year U-turn then closure: see here and see here), mental health drop-in centres (now run by volunteers), disabled children's residential home, The Grange, and other lost provision. The 'services' were not 'ceased' but are no longer Council run.
At the end of Saturday's rally, final speaker, Salford UNISON rep, Ameen Hadi, asked the nursery campaigners almost the same questions as this consultation.
'Do you want your nurseries privatised?'...'No!'...'Do you want to make sure they stay with qualified nursery workers?'... 'Yes!'...'Do you want to make sure they stay in public control?'... 'Yes!'...That democratic very public 'consultation' has been done, he concluded.
This Council consultation begins today and runs until 25th June.* Alongside it are a series of short notice meetings, with 'Third Party Interest Events' beginning this Wednesday 28th March 6pm at the Salford Suite in the Civic Centre, and Public Meetings beginning tomorrow, Tuesday 27th March 6pm at Belvedere Nursery.
For full details of the consultation and the meetings see Salford City Council website – click here
For a full background see also previous Salford Star articles...
Hundreds March To Save Threatened Nurseries – click here
Massive U-Turn By Mayor To Save Nurseries For 18 Months – click here
Photos by Gareth Lyons