Bid to rethink closure plan is thrown out

Protesters outside the Town Hall last week campaigning against plans to close council-run nurseries
Protesters outside the Town Hall last week campaigning against plans to close council-run nurseries

Feelings ran high as councillors met to answer questions about controversial plans to shut two Blackpool nurseries.

Campaigners against the proposals to close the facilities at Grange Park and Talbot and Brunswick Sure Start Centres held a demonstration outside the town hall before packing into the public gallery at the council chamber to listen to the debate.

The passion shown by the residents begging you not to close the nurseries is a testament to just how successful the nurseries are

Afterwards they heckled members of the scrutiny committee which voted to continue with the proposals to close the nurseries, although Conservative councillors voted against the proposal.

Tory group leader Coun Tony Williams, who had called for the decision to go before the committee, said: “The passion shown by the residents begging you not to close the nurseries is a testament to just how successful the nurseries are.”

He added; “My request is you abandon all intention of closing these nurseries and look for a way to provide the service, whether that is by staff members or partnering with the private sector.”

But Coun John Jones, cabinet member for schools improvement and children’s safeguarding, said parents would be helped in finding places at alternative nurseries, with the council looking into transport options for families who would have difficulty travelling.

Coun Jones also stressed the Sure Start centres themselves would remain open and continue to offer services.

He said “every support would be given to the parents on these estates” but the council had been forced to make “difficult decisions” due to government cuts of £26m to its budget this year.

He added: “We are looking at provision to provide transport but some providers out there do have provision and we will look to see if we can assist with that.”

Closing the nurseries will save the council nearly £250,000.

‘Find money from elsewhere’ say dismayed nursery protesters

Campaigners said they were disappointed with the outcome.

Nikki Hitchon, 24, who started a petition against the closures, said: “I feel we haven’t been involved enough and asked our opinion on things.

“I feel they already know the decision and that it’s about more than money.

“I don’t understand why the council can’t cut money from other budgets to find what it needs to keep the nurseries open.”

The council says it has received expressions of interest from the private sector to run the nurseries and this is one option it is looking at.

It says there are 2,400 nursery places available in Blackpool but demand for only 2,200 places which meant there was over provision.