Nursery closures confirmed after U-turn call fails

The closure of three Leeds nurseries will go ahead after attempts to have the decision reconsidered by council bosses were unsuccessful.

The Little Owls centres at Chapel Allerton, Kentmere in Seacroft and Gipton North were earmarked to be shut under cost-saving plans by Leeds City Council.

The decision was rubberstamped at a scrutiny meeting on Tuesday, as calls for a U-turn by opposition councillors and parents were rejected.

The local authority said keeping the centres open was not sustainable and children would be found alternative nursery places.

Opposition councillors asked for the closure decision, and a wider review of the Little Owls service, to be referred back to the council’s executive board.

But the closures and all but one of the review proposals were released for implementation by the council’s children and families scrutiny board, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

Leila Ball, whose 19-month-old son attends an unaffected Little Owls nursery, said she was worried about what would happen if her centre was to close in the future.

Ms Ball, 34, said she had been unable to get him into any nearby privately-run nursery because they said they were unable to cater for his complex needs.

"No matter what reassurance they can give, it doesn't make me feel any better about where a family like me could be in a year's time, trying to find a place and confronted by a landscape of only private provision," she told BBC Radio Leeds.

"Unless the systems were completely different in how childcare in the private sector looked, I just don't think there's an alternative for a family with a disabled child."

Hattie Hodgson-Crome said families were happy with the Little Owls service.

“It feels like this decision has been rushed, it has not been thought through properly," she told the meeting.

“The staff are really experienced and able to support families in a crisis.”

'Wonderful service'

Helen Hayden, the council's executive member for children and families, said the authority did not want to close nurseries and staff would not lose their jobs.

She said: “Moving the staff and making these closures ensures the sustainability of the Little Owls settings for our children and families.”

The scrutiny board decided the closures could go ahead, along with other measures including the council continuing to directly run nine Little Owls centres.

A review of another 12 centres would be carried out, which could see them merged or taken over by alternative providers.

The board voted to refer future decisions over those centres back to the executive board.

A spokesperson for the Stop the Closure of Little Owls group said: “We are hugely concerned that closing or privatising Little Owls nurseries will make Leeds a worse place to be a parent, and a worse place for our most vulnerable children.

“Our campaign does not stop here - we are committed to holding the council to account as they explore the future of Little Owls nurseries and will do all we can to protect this wonderful service.”

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