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SALFORD COUNCILLORS TO LOBBY THEMSELVES OVER NURSERY CLOSURES
 

Star date: 27th February 2018

SERIOUSLY BIZARRE HAPPENINGS WITH SAVE NURSERIES CAMPAIGN

The Save Salford Nurseries campaign has called a protest for tomorrow morning outside the Civic Centre, before Salford City Council's budget meeting. However, Salford councillors from the ruling Labour group which is axing the nurseries will be joining the campaigners.

It gets even stranger as, later on in the day, the Salford Mayor, whose ultimate decision it will be to shut the places, will be going to a campaign meeting to save the nurseries. Meanwhile figures being bandied around to justify the closures seemingly don't add up. What is going on?

Full details here...


Parents and supporters fighting to save Salford Council's five OFSTED-rated outstanding nurseries are expressing concern about the involvement of ruling Labour councillors and City Mayor, Paul Dennett, in the campaign.

Almost two weeks ago, a huge meeting of parents, nursery workers, unions, and activists voted 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

In the face of such vast opposition, the City Mayor did a u-turn and delayed the closure consultation for a month while he asked the Government "to review this funding shortfall"; which hadn't been done before the closure proposal was announced. (see here and see here)
 
Tomorrow morning at 8:30am there is to be a Save Salford Nurseries protest outside the Civic Centre but, the Salford Star understands, councillors from the ruling Labour group that is proposing the nurseries closure will be joining the 'protest'.

Furthermore, tomorrow night, there will be a campaign meeting of representatives from the five threatened nurseries where the City Mayor and 'supportive councillors' will be present...

"The mood at that [public] meeting, as expressed in the vote at the end, was to have a campaign independent from the Council that is proposing to close the nurseries" wrote one campaigner on social media "The idea that the Mayor, Paul Dennett, and 'supporting' Councillors will be central to deciding the plans of the campaign at its first meeting is in my opinion very worrying."

Another added that "the original motion voted on was 'Unless the Council withdraws the threat of closure and the consultation'. The threat is still there, the Council is only postponing the consultation by a month...They have not promised to fight these closures, only to look good in the press by standing alongside the campaign while at the same time still scheming to close the nurseries!"

What is clear is that by forcing local authorities to hand more money to 'other providers', all this is part of a Tory Government privatisation push. Or, as Salford and Eccles MP Rebecca Long-Bailey pointed out at the public meeting, "We have a Government that does not believe in the public provision of services to our community. They want to privatise things and want to ensure that they are scaled back as much as possible..."

That said, however, Salford Council also has political choices to make. As part of its budget this year, no money for cash-starved public services has been taken from reserves, which currently stand at £13.2million (not the £11.5million quoted by the Mayor at the public meeting).

Within the reserves budget for 2018-19, between £500,000 and £700,000 has been stashed away for 'Government Specific Grant Reductions'. Which is exactly what the five nurseries funding crisis is, in effect. Why, parents and staff might ask, is the Council not just using such reserves now to save the nurseries?

Maybe campaigners can ask councillors and the Mayor when they join them on the protest against closures tomorrow morning.



The Funding Mess

The Salford Star has got Government figures and Salford Council figures surrounding Early Years funding and funding for three and four year olds – and they just don't match...

Salford Council states that in 2016-17, its 'three and four year old free entitlement funding was £12.18 million', and that it 'retained £2.3million to pay for delivery of our local authority early years services'.

For 2017-18, the Council adds, the Government funding for three and four year olds is £14.1million. However, because of a change in the formula for the funding, it now has to spend 95% of this money on other providers (£13.395million), meaning 'we now can only currently retain £705,000'. The Council expects the same in the next financial year. And that this is where a £1.595million shortfall stated by the Council comes from.

However, in response to the Salford Star last week, the Department of Education stated that in 2017-18 the Council had to pass on 93% of the funding to providers, and from 2018-19 it will be 95%. So, for 2017-18, based on official Council figures, it could retain £860,000. Someone is 2% out, or £155,000.

Meanwhile, for all Early Years Funding, the Department states that the full figure is £17.9million in 2017-18, increasing to £19.4million in 2018-19. On these figures, if the Council has to pass on 93% of this funding to providers in 2017-18, it gets to retain £1.253million, and 95% of the funding in 2018-19, or £970,000.

The figures just don't match. Who is right? Who is wrong? No idea because the Department of Education hasn't returned calls, and Salford Council hasn't responded to Salford Star questions for over five years. So there is no way the finances can be properly scrutinised by the Salford Star.

Finally, the five nurseries themselves have run at a deficit for the last two years, according to Council figures posted on its website - £1.38million in 2016-17, and £1.292 in 2017-18. Yet the Council is quoting a shortfall of £1.5millionthat is also £200,000 out. No income and expenditure projections have been posted for the next financial year 2018-19, which are the basis of the Council proposed closure.

Either way, isn't it the purpose of local authorities and public bodies to subsidise these sort of services, particularly nurseries that are looking after some of the most vulnerable children in Salford?


Update: 28th February: Salford Mayor and Deputies Drive Save Salford Nurseries Campaign - click here


wrote wrote
at 16:13:44 on 28 February 2018
'Meanwhile, figures being bandied around to justify the closures seemingly don't add up' None of the facts of figures add up, that's also true of the figures used to justify all the compulsory purchase schemes and pretty much anything that the council wants to do
 
Mary ferrer wrote
at 16:13:39 on 28 February 2018
What's our mayors favourite saying "Open and transparent" Well is it not time he started being just that.I just wish the Star had the money to get out there in printzacatecas
 
Alice wrote
at 10:49:15 on 28 February 2018
There is so much in this article to prompt questions. Firstly, the main subject is the future of these nurseries. We all know the social and educational value of such a provision. That case has been made. We would all like to see the Council withdraw its threat to close these nurseries. The apparent support of the Mayor and other Councillors is confusing since it seems to agree with the campaign. I ask 'is it a deception?' Or is it a genuine desire to support the cause and show its irritation with the Government by this action. Looming over all this are the local elections and how decisions will affect the results. Some Corbynites, in the Council, may have a genuine wish to show some rebellion. Whatever the real, sincere reason, there is doubt. To add to this confusion is the amazing research on budget figures carried out by Salford Star. These set us thinking again. The sooner the Council opens up to the Star and answers questions, in a mature and respectful manner , the better for all our understanding. Why is the Council afraid? Come clear, get talking. Honesty and transparency may clear up the confusion.
 
wrote
at 10:48:35 on 28 February 2018
You have to ask WHY the council feel the need to keep people in the dark IF they are supposedly working for the good of the people?
 
Salford agent wrote
at 10:48:02 on 28 February 2018
I worked at this crap local authority and it was a direction form the very top when Ian Stewart the Mayor was there. The press office and all staff were instructed by senior management that the Star were not a legitimate media outlet and therefore no response should be made to any enquiry. It’s a disgrace that the council can block legitimate reporting and act as censor.
 
Bob the regular wrote
at 10:47:41 on 28 February 2018
I also would love to believe Mary was right in thinking that the people had learnt sense, but i don't think enough ever will. Besides, with the elections coming up,expect a tactical withdrawal, especially with the amount of opposition. Like I said, expect the deal that is coming up on the hospital car park.That will pay towards it. I am sure the editor must have heard by now a few rummours on this one.
 
Felsey wrote
at 10:47:25 on 28 February 2018
I agree with Mary. Thank goodness for Salford Star. It shames me to think Councillors expect people to go out and vote when the same Councillors from all parties cannot even be bothered to take time to write under 50 words in this public forum. Just stop hiding behind your block vote and give the nursery workers job security for as long as you have Councillor job security. Mayor should take notice of these hard working people they probably voted Labour.
 
Arnolld Rimmer wrote
at 10:47:20 on 28 February 2018
@Evan Pritchard. Yep, you're right. I can't see how a balanced story can be given if you only get half the information. Take the article on the Sheffield Uni professor's S106 research on affordable housing the other day. The MEN had posted an article on the same research but without the spin. The facts were the same though, just the narrative of the Star was unnecessarily negative.
 
Mary ferrer wrote
at 22:59:27 on 27 February 2018
I take it Mr Pritchard you haven't had much dealings with our Labour Council.They don't like salford star because they keep us mushrooms in the light. Where they would like us to know as little as possible. Over the years the people of Salford would not have a clue what our elected members were doing. More and more decisions are made behind closed doors.They even keep their own councillors in the dark.if the star has printed something that is incorrect,then get the council's side of the story. This latest article for example.If the figures are wrong or the contents is not correct.they should say so. But I forgot one would believe Steve before our Labour run council any day. With regard the nurseries,think they are a wee bit scared of the impact this will have on the local elections. Remember kersal election where they lost their very safe seat.They pissed off the residents when they gave planning permission for Salford City stadium.Maybe the people of Salford have started to wake up and smell the coffee
 
Evan Pritchard wrote
at 17:46:36 on 27 February 2018
Something that has occurred to me for some time is that the poor (or rather non-existent) relations between the Council and the Salford Star means that you have a situation where a major critic of an important local authority carries articles that are generally hostile towards that local authority, but without any reply to those articles. Whoever is at fault here, it does mean that there is an inevitable and serious lack in balance in the coverage. The Salford Star can ask the questions, but if the Council doesn't want to talk to them there will clearly be no answers. Which is a shame, given that I had the fortune to attend a meeting last night on the vital need for trade unions, where a care worker and a union rep from Unison were praising some of the work being done by the Mayor and some councilors in respect of their pay and conditions, so from the point of view of addressing the problems of those people a Labour council should be representing it does seem that the picture is mixed at the very least.
 
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