Joint working could find a way forward for nurseries

Parents gather at Wellholme Park Surestart Centre to campaign against the potential closure of the nursery
Parents gather at Wellholme Park Surestart Centre to campaign against the potential closure of the nursery

Campaigners battling to keep the nurseries at six Sure Start centres have been asked to work with Calderdale Council to find a way forward.

Reassurances have been given by Leader of Calderdale Council Coun Tim Swift and Coun Megan Swift, Cabinet member for children’s social care and lead member for children’s services, that none of the nurseries will close before September as planned. Although the full 90-day consultation will run its course until next month when it comes to voting at the next Cabinet meeting, the Labour group will be voting against the budget proposal to withdraw the subsidy.

That decision will then go to full Council in April when it is hoped proposals to withdraw funding from the day care provision at Wellholme, Brighouse, Field Lane, Rastrick, New Road in Sowerby Bridge, Todmorden, Elland and Siddal will be refused by councillors.

A working party will then be set up including parents and staff from the nurseries to find a way forward.

Parent and active campaigner Helen Fulcher said: “I think they have been fair and honest and my gut feeling is that they don’t want to close them. I would much rather work with the council and parents would rather do that too. We are not achieving anything if we are fighting all the time.”

Councillor Tim Swift (Labour, Town) told parents at a meeting held at Brighouse Civic Hall that the nurseries would not necessarily close but would be run in different ways. “The 90-day consultation ends in February and to stop that we would need to take a decision to Cabinet saying don’t carry on with that. But having started it we may as well let them carry on with the work. But we will not support going on with that proposal. We need more time to look at different possibilities. We want to see what other options there are for each nursery.”

Councillor Megan Swift (Labour, Town) said they might have missed some bits of information in the background and that officers were this week looking at it in more depth. “Officers have done a radius of a mile around each children’s centre to see where parents come from,” she said.

One idea the councillors were discussing was sending the nurseries out to tender but that they would have to be done in clusters and that quality would be at the forefront rather than price.

Councillor Ann McAllister (Con, Rastrick) told parents: “Let the consultation come to a close and put forward everything that you think needs to be considered and keep asking your councillors for support and then you have done all you can.

“What you have done so far has been really constructive and completely reasonable and sensible and well balanced and you should be proud of yourselves.”

Councillors urged people to contact them with information about the six nurseries as part of the consultation and to keep using the facilities.