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Nursey closure will ‘hit town’s most deprived community’

Working parents in one of Walsall’s most deprived communities will be forced into unemployment if the council closes its last remaining nursery, a crunch meeting has heard.

Town hall bosses have been asked to reconsider the decision to shut down Stanley’s Nursery in Birchills.

The centre is the last local authority-run nursery in the borough but the Tory-led administration said it is a non essential service which costs £138,000 a year to run. They decided to close it last month after efforts to outsource it had failed, with the remaining 57 children moved to alternative providers in the town. But the decision was called in by opposition Labour and Liberal Democrats members. They said the decision had been made without taking into account ‘lessons learned from Covid’ and went against recommendations by the children’s commissioner, the Local Government Association and even a commitment made in the Tory manifesto for the 2019 general election towards family hubs And they added the closure would have a devastating impact on families in the area, especially people from ethnic minority backgrounds who used the nursery.

Walsall Council leader Mike Bird and Councillor Tim Wilson, portfolio holder for children’s services, said the previous Labour-led administrations of 2015 and 2017 had earmarked Stanley’s for closure when they were in power. They said financial pressures on the authority had worsened since then.

But Labour group leader Aftab Nawaz said: “Covid-19 has shown that inequalities really exist throughout society and BAME communities have been impacted disproportionately. The BAME usage of this nursery is significantly higher – almost twice as high as white counterparts and closure would have a significant impact on them. Some of the comments by users of the nursery were quite distressing. Some said they will no longer engage with early years and others who said they’d have to give up their jobs. It impacts on a lot of the deprived communities.”

Councillor Shires added: “Any decision made pre-Covid 19 had not got the benefits of the lessons learned since the pandemic hit. “We urge the cabinet to reconsider the closure of this setting and identify alternative funding that will sustain the centre and thus support local people to improve their lives.

Councillor Wilson said councillors Jeavons and Jukes were both invited to take part in the consultation phase at least eight times but failed to do so.

He said: “This is the only nursery run by the council. All of the others were closed in 2015 and 2017. This is a non-statutory service and there is a significant budget pressure. There are 57 children who would be moved and there are dedicated staff on hand to help them. We have done the due diligence and there are places available. This is the second most deprived area in Walsall and we acknowledge that. But we also acknowledge that a good proportion of the children attending come from other areas so they don’t all come from Birchills. Staff have no certainty, they can’t apply for other jobs because no decision has been made yet due to the call in.”

 

Article originally appeared on Birmingham Live

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