Last Friday, Salford City Council announced that it was to begin a consultation on the closure of all five of its outstanding OFSTED rated nurseries - Little Hulton Day Nursery, Barton Moss Day Nursery, Higher Broughton Day Nursery, Belvedere Day Nursery and Winton Day Nursery (for details see previous Salford Star article click here).
Within a day, Salford City UNISON, the trade union that represents over one hundred workers who could lose their jobs, had called a public meeting for 11am this Saturday, 17th February at Hemsley House on the Crescent (see here for details). And yesterday, a petition* was created to Save Salford Council's Five Outstanding Nurseries, which has already drawn two thousand signatures and is growing by the minute.
"I'm delighted with the response" says petition creator, Elizabeth Longwill, whose daughter attends the threatened Barton Moss Day Nursery "It shows the passion people have for this. Salford has a long and proud history of protest; they can't just keep cutting and cutting and cutting, and think it's not going to have any effect.
"The Government has actually said that Salford needs more outstanding affordable child care, not less, so for me it seems like complete madness and I think it's a kneejerk reaction" she adds "The future cost of closing these nurseries will be so much greater."
Elizabeth's petition cites a State of the Nation report by the Social Mobility Commission last year which stated 'It is clear what drives positive development outcomes for disadvantaged children in the early years...Strong promotion and take-up of the free childcare offer, high-quality preschool settings, effective training and advice for childcare workers, evidence-based support for parents on home learning, and integrated family services'...
"Salford is going through a massive regeneration but there's no point in putting money into roads and shiny buildings if we are not going to support the children of Salford who will be the workforce and entrepreneurs of the future" Elizabeth explains "It will take a long time for this investment to pay off but there are so many studies that show the money you put in, even to under-3s, is an investment for the future. You put in £1, you get £13 back...
"It doesn't make sense" she adds "Surely there's something that can be done, whether it's a public/private partnership or money from other areas...I know money is tight but it's a question of priorities."
Indeed, the Salford Council budget for this financial year shows £278,550 net payments to The Lowry; £180,000 to the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra; £60,000 for 'premises' at Middlewood Locks; £144,859 net cost for a Salford Quays project office; £180,740 for the Salford City Mayor and his office; £127,586 for 'Greengate'; £407,604 for The Landing at Media City, and £730,673 in interest payments for 'unsupported borrowing'.
The Salford Star has also documented huge spending on websites and tv streaming of council meetings, over £7million planning fees avoided by developers, and seriously massive spending on the RHS Garden in Worsley (£19million) and new office blocks (£200million).
Meanwhile, Elizabeth, whose daughter is one of 326 children affected, also feels for the 106 staff who could lose their jobs as a result of the proposed nursery closures... "They're amazing and are doing an outstanding job" she says "What other area of business do you close down your best performing areas?"
This morning Salford City UNISON issued a statement expressing 'disappointment' with the Council's proposal which, it added, came 'out of the blue'...
"We understand that due to Government cuts to school funding this has caused a deficit of £1.75million" said the union's Ameen Hadi "We call on the Mayor, councillors and our local MPs to fight with the community and trade unions to retain our services."
The UNISON statement added that some "children with special educational needs and their families will lose the support of highly qualified and experienced staff" that "the most deprived areas will not have local nursery to support children and their families to be given the best start in their lives" and that "the Council would be making over one hundred staff redundant, mainly low paid young women workers who also have young families".
UNISON insisted that the decision "is in contravention of the Council's own policies in terms of Early Years, the Mayor's Anti-Poverty Strategy and to avoid compulsory redundancies".
The consultation on the potential closures starts on 26th February and runs until after the local elections in May. The Salford Council budget is set at its meeting on the 28th February.
* To sign the Save Salford Council's Five Outstanding Nurseries petition click here
Save Salford Council Nurseries Public Meeting
Saturday 17th February 11am-1pm
Hemsley House, The Crescent M5 4PE
(next to the old Crescent Police Station)
Main photo by Steven Speed shows the protest against the closure of Harvey Nursery in Bolton. Such was the outcry from parents, staff, the community and trade union that Bolton Council did a U-turn before the end of the consultation