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PRESS AHEAD: Closure-threatened nursery not given a fighting chance

PRESS AHEAD: Closure-threatened nursery not given a fighting chance

Harvey Nursery in Great Lever, Image: LDRS

Bolton Conservatives have been accused of ‘ignoring the majority of councillors’ as they press ahead with plans to shut the final council-run nursery.

The minority-led Tory council ruled to close Harvey Nursery in Great Lever because it’s not attracting enough children to break-even.

Taxpayers in the town are subsidising the education centre by up to £120,000-a-year, according to the Conservatives.

However, Labour councillors claim the nursery hasn’t been ‘given a fighting chance’ and they are ignoring ‘clear instructions’ by the council to review the decision.

Coun Martin Donaghy, told the full council meeting: “The original proposals for closure of this important nursery provision were halted when the vast majority of councillors, from all parties, asked the Conservatives to have a re-think, by looking at ways of assisting the nursery to improve uptake of places and hence reducing the cost to the council.

“Ten months after this instruction, we were shocked to learn that have done nothing to help the nursery.

“Instead have simply gone back out to consultation again recommending closure, without any work being done to help the nursery survive.

“Harveys have not even been given a fighting chance, so the only conclusion is that this is a politically motivated move, designed to get rid of the last remaining council run nursery.”

Bolton Conservatives said the nursery, which cares for around 61 children, needed 74 per cent capacity  to be financially viable and has never recently achieved more than 52 per cent capacity.

Labour group leader, Coun Nick Peel, said: “It’s becoming very worrying, when yet again, the Tory council, who do not have a majority, choose to ignore clear instructions from the majority of councillors, some of whom are their coalition allies.

“It smacks of rank arrogance, when they persist in plans that do not have the consent of the majority.

“By passing this motion, we are strongly urging the council to listen to what they are being told and give Harveys a fair chance to survive.”

Conservative cabinet member Anne Galloway, who made the decision on a consultation for the closure of the nursery, likely to be in summer 2022, defended the move.

She said that the closure plans had been reviewed since January.

Cllr Galloway said: “No workable solutions were identified to solve the long standing problems.

“In fact, the aftermath of the pandemic has altered how we work, and made it an even more competitive market for early year care providers

“Why do Bolton taxpayers have to go on subsidising £2,000 pounds per child to go to this one nursery.

“A great deal of effort and time has been devoted to Harvey to see if it can become financially sustainable, and all the time, thousands of pounds in our children’s budget is being diverted from other vital services.

“It is a very good nursery with dedicated staff, but there were many private early years providers in the area who offer an outstanding high quality service and, importantly, don’t require Bolton taxpayers’ money.

“We will be offering support to parents, to secure alternative provision for their children.

“There are many places available nearby.”

The motion which was passed calls for the ‘withdrawal of the current closure proposals until a full and up to date report is brought back to the executive member’.

 

Words: Chris Gee, Local Demcoracy Reporter


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