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Backlash to Leeds nursery closures and review

by Don Mort

Council leaders could be asked to reconsider the closure of three nurseries after a backlash from some elected members.

Opposition councillors have put their names to formal requests for cash-strapped Leeds City Council to review its decision on the future of Little Owls centres.

The Chapel Allerton, Gipton North and Kentmere nurseries are to be closed under cost-saving plans.

The council’s executive board also decided to press ahead with a review of another 12 of the nurseries, which could be merged or taken over by other providers. Nurseries include Bramley – which this week was rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted inspectors – Burley Park and Hawksworth Wood in West Leeds.

The council will continue to operate nine of the nurseries as its looks to balance its books.

Little Owls Nursery in Burley Park. Photo: Google

Councillors have requested a review of the decision as part of a process called ‘call-in’.

It means Little Owls will be discussed by the authority’s Children and Families scrutiny board at a meeting on Tuesday (July 9).

The board can either recommend that the decision is reconsidered by the executive board, or say it can be implemented.

In a report setting out the reasons for the call-in request, the councillors said concerns included a lack of consultation and disruption for vulnerable children.

It said: “The decision fails to appropriately consider the negative impact on life opportunities for both children and parents, particularly in deprived areas.

“Affordable childcare offers access to education and grants parents the freedom to undertake paid work.

“This lack of provision will impact the parents’ ability to do so.”

The original closure decision was taken by executive board on June 19.

The scrutiny board received two formal call-in requests signed by councillors.

The lead signatories were Coun Ryan Stephenson, Conservative member for Harewood, and Mothin Ali, Gipton and Harehills Green Party councillor.

As reported by WLD, Leeds City Council is set to run a “market sounding” exercise will be held over the future of 12 nurseries in Leeds. They are: Shepherds Lane, Meanwood, St Mary’s Hunslet, Hawksworth Wood, City and Holbeck, Parklands, Quarry Mount, Bramley, Hunslet Rylestone, Osmondthorpe, Rothwell, Burley Park. Alternative providers could include schools, charities or private companies.

Childcare at nine of the centres would continue to be directly delivered by the council to ensure sufficient places for vulnerable children. They are: Chapeltown, New Bewerley, Little London, Harehills, Swarcliffe, Seacroft, Middleton Laurel Bank, Two Willows and Armley Moor.


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