Parents march through Bramley over council nursery ‘privatisation threat’

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A protest was held in Bramley over future plans for the Little Owls Nursery. Photo: John Baron

By John Baron

Parents of children at Little Owls Bramley marched through the centre of Bramley today as Leeds City Council ‘explores alternative provision’ at the local authority nursery.

A campaign was launched after Leeds City Council launched a review of Little Owls nurseries across the city as part of a drive to cut costs

Three of the centres – Kentmere, Chapel Allerton and Gipton North – are at risk of closure. Nurseries at BramleyBurley Park and Hawksworth Wood are among 12 others where alternative provision, including being taken over by private providers, is being explored.

Video captures campaigners marching through the streets of Bramley today.

Campaigners met this morning at Bramley Shopping Centre and marched to the playground at Bramley Park. 

One parent said: “I chose Little Owls Bramley for my child after seeing other private options, which I wasn’t impressed with. The staff here are great, they engage the children with proper activities, not just stick them in front of a iPad to watch cartoons. The support for children with special educational needs is exceptional.”

Another campaigner, Iain Dalton, said: “I understand the council has had its budget cut by central government. We’re here today to protest against those cuts to local government and to early years childcare in Leeds. We have no guarantees that a new provider would be able to secure wraparound childcare, there are questions about continuity of childcare and the impact of all this on young lives.”

There were calls for the council to delay the final decision on the future of the nurseries until after the general election on July 4.

Another added: “Closing or privatising nurseries is not the solution to the childcare crisis and it is not in line with the council’s stated desire to make Leeds a child-friendly city.”

The rally was also attended by Bramley & Stanningley Labour councillors Adele Rae and Kevin Ritchie. Cllr Rae wanted to nursery to stay council-run because of its high-quality childcare, support for pupils with special educational needs.

Cllr Ritchie echoed those points and pointed to the council’s financial ‘difficulties under Tory austerity’. He said the wider campaign was about cuts to local government funding from central government.

Campaigners in Bramley Park. Photo: John Baron

Cllr Ritchie said he understood the need for a review of the service amid the wider background of cuts and said the council had to set a balanced budget, pointing to bankrupt councils in Birmingham and Croydon and the swinging cuts that had been introduced there. He said the next government needed to change the way local government was funded.

Leeds City Council already delayed the possible closure of the three nurseries until August at the earliest in response to feedback from parents.

A council spokesperson said earlier this week: “As we have previously stated, we understand the concerns of parents, carers, staff and communities which could be affected by the proposals.

“These are proposals at this stage and we are continuing to engage with parents, carers and other stakeholders before any final decisions are made.”

Campaigners finished near the playground at Bramley Park. Photo: John Baron

Comments on the future of Little Owls, which runs 24 nurseries in the city, can be submitted to LittleOwlsReview@Leeds.gov.uk.

Campaigners from Stop the Closure of Little Owls are organising a further march in Burley in two weeks’ time and will be lobbying the council’s decision-making executive board when the review is considered at its meeting on June 19.

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