Parents campaign forces council to backtrack on closures dates – the fight continues

Rally against the closure of Chapel Allerton Little Owls Nursery, Saturday 30th April – photo Leeds Socialist Party

Just one week after issuing letters to parents putting 15 of 24 council-run Little Owls nurseries under threat, with 3 due to close as soon as May, the council issued a new letter to parents. They have now delayed the three proposed closures until August and have now setup an ‘engagement’ process with parents. Instead of making a final decision in mid-April, we are now told this will be ‘early summer’.

Iain Dalton, parent of a child at a Little Owls nursery

This retreat by the council was welcomed at a zoom meeting of around 70 parents that I hosted just hours after parents got this news. Parents who thought they may have to give up their jobs because of the closures felt a sigh of relief.

But parents were clear that the council had only done this because of our campaigning over the last week had forced them back. And given how angry parents were about how this had been approached, we are determined to keep the pressure up on the council until the proposals are dropped altogether. As one parent Liz, expressed to the BBC “We know that the fight isn’t over. We are organised and determined. We hope that, after some real and open consultation, the council realise that this ‘proposal’ was a mistake.”

The meeting established a steering committee for the campaign and planned a lobby of the council executive board on Wednesday 17th April outside Leeds Civic Hall between 12-1pm.

A parent who organised a now over 600 strong petition to Save Little Owls Chapel Allerton organised a rally on Saturday 30th March outside the nursery. Parents and children from other nurseries supported Chapel Allerton parents who got good support from the local community.

Parents have been told by local councillors that they don’t want to close nurseries but that they have no choice because of the council financial crisis.

But why not instead of boosting the councils general reserves by £3m, as promised in the councils budget, could this money be used to keep all the nurseries open?

Why can’t the Labour council demand that Keir Starmer, who is likely to win the general election due in the next year, increase funding for childcare and/or restore local government funding levels?

Socialist Party members including myself are standing as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition across Leeds and will make saving the nurseries a key part of our campaign.

That Labour is proposing these cuts, and that not one of the six other parties represented on the council put forward an amendment to oppose the cuts to nurseries highlights the vital need for workers relatives on the council that will use that position to help mobilise struggles against cuts to our public services.

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