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Walsall nursery closure decision called in by councillors

By Gurdip Thandi | Walsall | News | Published:

A bid to overturn a decision to close Walsall’s last local authority-run nursery has been launched by opposition councillors.

Stanley's Nursery, based in the Sure Start building in Birchills Street. Photo: Google

Walsall Council’s cabinet took the decision to stop funding Stanley’s Nursery in Birchills Street, saying it would cost £138,000 a year to keep it open.

But Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors have invoked the ‘call in’ process and the issue will now go before the authority’s scrutiny committee at a special meeting on August 3.

The notice, signed by Labour group leader Aftab Nawaz and the party’s ward members Lee Jeavons and Tina Jukes as well as Lib Dem leader Ian Shires and his colleague Daniel Barker, said the closure would have a negative impact on one of the town’s most deprived areas.

It also said: "Whilst we are aware savings will be made, there are concerns that any savings made by the closure of the last remaining centre run by the council will create a long term legacy that further embeds deprivation in the Birchills area and ultimately would cost the authority and its partners significantly more.

"The nursery provides much needed care and support to a cohort of vulnerable children, not just now but into the future."

At the cabinet meeting, children’s services portfolio holder Councillor Tim Wilson said subsidising Stanley’s was not a statutory duty and previous attempts by different administrations to outsource it in 2015 and 2017 had proved unsuccessful.

During the consultation, many concerned parents voiced their opposition to the proposal, saying it would unsettle their children.

A total of 23 staff will be made redundant as a result of closure.

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Councillor Shires said they are urging the authority to reconsider the decision and find the funding to ensure it continues.

He also said the Local Government Association and the children’s commissioner had cited early years’ services as being important in the fightback against Covid-19, adding the decision to consult on closing Stanley’s came in February – before lockdown hit.

He said: “Cabinet made its decision in spite of appeals from parents to keep the facility open for their toddlers.

"The cabinet made its decision on the back of a 37 page report, the aim of which was to determine, as the title stated, the future of childcare provision at the centre.

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"All along, it would appear from the report’s recommendations, the aim was to close the facility.”

Councillor Wilson said: "Members are entitled to call in decisions to scrutiny. I welcome this and am a big supporter of the process.

"I will of course answer any questions and listen to any recommendations the committee makes, which will then be considered. We are a listening cabinet."

Gurdip Thandi

By Gurdip Thandi
@Gurdo

Local Democracy Reporter covering Walsall.

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