Last-chance bid to keep council nursery open

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Campaigners have succeeded in winning a reprieve for a council-run nursery in Brighton, after more than 5,000 people signed a petition to save it.

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More than 100 parents, staff and children marched from Bright Start nursery to a full meeting of Brighton and Hove City Council on 18 December to debate the council’s plan to close the nursery and present the petition.

The Conservative-led council is proposing closing the nursery in April to save £87,000 a year (News, 10 November). Parents and staff have both submitted business cases with plans showing how the nursery could be profitable.

The nursery has the support of Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green councillors, who backed a motion by Green councillor Lizzie Deane to stop the consultation about closure and form a working group to look at how the nursery could be kept open and be sustainable.

At the meeting, Conservative council leader Mary Mears proposed that ‘in the spirit of the Localism Bill’ there should be a new consultation on whether Bright Start could be run as a community nursery by a consortium of staff and parents. She said, ‘This is the only nursery in the city which receives such a subsidy, and we don’t feel that it is a fair or sustainable solution. It is not fair on the vast majority of parents whose children attend nurseries which aren’t subsidised, or fair on the council taxpayer.’

But parents want the nursery to remain council-run.

Presenting the petition, Jenny Statham, the mother of a two-year-old at Bright Start and a council employee, said, ‘My family and families I represent will face great difficulty if Bright Start is closed. In our case we have no nursery accessible to us that can offer all of the days we need to work and support our family. Our choices are to cobble together childcare using different nurseries each day or reassess our ability to work full-time.’

Dave Jones, Unison representative for Brighton and Hove, who works at Bright Start, said, ‘Our campaign included everybody from parents who voted Tory last May to Socialist Worker party members.’

A detailed report on the future of the nursery will now be brought to the Children and Young People cabinet member meeting on 17 January.

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