Campaigners 'heartbroken' over decision to close Tower Hamlets nurseries

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Despite a challenge from Labour councillors, the mayor of Tower Hamlets has confirmed the closure of the last three council nurseries will go ahead as planned.

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Parent campaigners in Tower Hamlets

At a meeting of the council's cabinet on Wednesday (31 October), the executive mayor John Biggs said he could not 'justify picking up the cost of the nurseries given the financial challenge facing schools'.

Parent campaigners have vowed to continue their fight to keep the nurseries open.

The mayor's decision follows the endorsement of a ‘call-in’ by the council’s overview and scrutiny committee, signed by five Labour councillors questioning the executive mayor’s decision to close Overland nursery in Bow, which provides specialist support for children with deafness and autism, the John Smith nursery in Whitechapel, and the Mary Sambrook nursery in Shadwell.

The endorsement of the call-in meant the decision to close the three nurseries was considered by the council’s legal and monitoring officers. They however found that the plans to close the settings did not not contravene the council's policy framework.

Parent campaigners, who last month joined a rally organised by campaigners in Salford, who are fighting the privatisation of its 14 community nurseries, said they would continue to fight to keep the council nurseries open.

A spokesperson for the Save our Nurseries campaign, Candace Reading, said, ‘While the mayor’s decision to close our day nurseries is heartbreaking and certainly a setback, our campaign for our borough’s most vulnerable children continues.

She added, ‘There has been a great deal of misinformation that has come to everyone’s attention from the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

‘The decision to not go to full council doesn’t feel very democratic.

‘We will continue to fight for the provision of publicly-run local authority day nurseries by taking this local issue to a national campaign.’

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said, ‘The decision to close the three local authority day nurseries is not one that has been taken lightly.

‘It follows a long and detailed consideration of the issues and the alternatives including a series of public meetings, representations for and against at our cabinet meetings, as well as several scrutiny reviews.

‘There is a clear financial challenge facing schools so they can longer support these nurseries and the council simply cannot justify picking up this cost. This has not been an easy decision, and we will we will be looking at how the council can invest in early years provision more widely in ways which will benefit a greater number of children in the borough.’

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