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HomeNewsCouncil approves 'Little Owls' nursery closures and potential takeovers

Council approves ‘Little Owls’ nursery closures and potential takeovers

By Don Mort, local democracy reporter

The closure of three nurseries has been formally approved as part of cost-saving measures by the council.

The local authority will pull out of running Little Owls centres at Kentmere, Gipton North and Chapel Allerton.

More than 90 youngsters are affected by the closures, set to go ahead this summer.

Another 12 Little Owls centres could be taken over by other providers or merged as part of a review by Leeds City Council. These include Bramley, Burley Park and Hawksworth Wood in West Leeds.

Little Owls Nursery in Burley Park. Photo: Google

The proposals were agreed by the council’s Executive Board today (Wednesday, June 19).

Helen Hayden, executive member for children and families, said: “Financial strain on the Children and Families directorate has led to this difficult decision.

“We understand the importance of access to the high-quality childcare that is provided by Little Owls.”

Plans to close the three centres sparked protests from parents who feared disruption for their children.

Leeds City Council said closures would only go ahead where alternative nursery provision had been found.

Families were also worried about higher costs if other nurseries were privatised. Earlier this month WLD reported on a march from Bramley Shopping Centre to Bramley Park by parents and campaigners concerned about the future of Little Owls provision in Bramley.

Julie Longworth, director of children and families, said: “We are providing these children with alternatives in close proximity of their previous nursery.”

Under threat: Bramley Little Owls Nursery

Nine Little Owls nurseries will continue to be directly operated by the local authority under the measures.

Coun Alan Lamb, Conservative Group leader, said parents he had spoken to did not feel they were properly consulted over the closures.

He said: “This has caused a great deal of concern for parents and families around the city. What they don’t understand is why this is being done to them and not with them.”

He said they also felt alternatives to the closures had not been explored.

Coun Lamb added: “I don’t think you need to do this to save the money.”

Council figures show the Little Owls service was overspent by £1.9m in 2022/23 and £841,000 last year.

The review was designed to eliminate the Little Owls overspend and save £900,000 this financial year.

A “market sounding” exercise will be held over the future of 12 nurseries. 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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