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Parents Call for Delay Over Little Owls Nurseries Closure Plan

29 May 2024

Parents in Leeds are urging the City Council to delay the decision to close three Little Owls nurseries until after the upcoming general election.

The nurseries in Kentmere, Gipton North, and Chapel Allerton are facing closure due to significant financial challenges. While a final decision is scheduled before the election, campaigners argue that such decisions could be irreversible. The council continues to engage with parents and stakeholders, but campaigners believe waiting until after the election could lead to better outcomes.

Parents have been holding regular protests against the proposals to close the three Little Owls Nursery sites

Parents in Leeds have rallied together, calling on Leeds City Council to postpone the decision to close three Little Owls nurseries. The nurseries in question, located in Kentmere, Gipton North, and Chapel Allerton, are under threat due to what the council describes as “significant financial challenges.” This move comes after a thorough review of all 24 Little Owls nurseries across Leeds. The council cites staff vacancies and financial strains exacerbated by the pandemic as key reasons for the proposed closures. However, parents and campaigners argue that the decision should be delayed until after the general election to allow for a more informed and potentially reversible outcome.

The Proposed Closure and Its Implications

The proposed closure of the Little Owls nurseries has sparked a significant outcry from the local community. The council’s decision follows a review aimed at addressing financial and staffing challenges across the city’s nurseries. While the council has already delayed any closures until August, the final decision is slated to be made before the general election. This timing has raised concerns among parents and campaigners who fear that decisions made in the pre-election period could be rushed and difficult to reverse.

Financial Strains and Staffing Issues

Leeds City Council has highlighted the financial difficulties and staff shortages as the primary reasons for considering the closures. The pandemic has exacerbated these issues, leading to significant budgetary pressures. Despite these challenges, parents believe that the closure of nurseries is not the solution. They argue that the impact on children, families, and the wider community could be detrimental, especially in areas where access to affordable childcare is already limited.

Campaigners’ Plea for Delay

Campaigners, led by Iain Dalton, a concerned parent, have been vocal in their demands for the council to wait until after the general election. Dalton, 38, emphasises that the election outcome and subsequent policy changes could significantly influence the decision-making process regarding childcare. “It’s a matter of waiting a few months to see the outcome of the election and what the immediate policy changes of a government would be,” Dalton asserts. He believes that all political parties are likely to address the broader childcare crisis, which could lead to more favourable conditions for maintaining the nurseries.

Iain Dalton is among those calling on council bosses not to close the three Little Owls Nursery sites

Community Impact and Future Considerations

The potential closure of the nurseries has a broader impact on the local communities they serve. Parents are concerned about the loss of accessible, affordable childcare and the knock-on effects on their ability to work and support their families. The nurseries provide more than just childcare; they are integral parts of the community, offering social and developmental benefits to children and support networks for parents.

Council’s Response

In response to the campaigners’ demands, a spokesperson for Leeds City Council acknowledged the concerns and emphasised that the proposals are still at the consultation stage. “These are proposals at this stage and we are continuing to engage with parents, carers and other stakeholders before any final decisions are made. All views are important to us,” the spokesperson said. This engagement is crucial, as it allows for a comprehensive understanding of the community’s needs and the potential consequences of the closures.

A Call for Informed Decision-Making

The central argument from parents and campaigners is for a more informed decision-making process that takes into account the potential changes in government policy post-election. By delaying the decision, the council could ensure that any actions taken are in the best interests of the children, parents, and the wider community. This period of waiting could provide the necessary time to explore alternative solutions and secure the future of the nurseries.

The call to delay the decision on the closure of Little Owls nurseries until after the general election is a plea for prudence and careful consideration. The financial and staffing challenges faced by the council are undeniable, but the potential impact on children, families, and communities necessitates a cautious approach. By waiting until after the election, the council can ensure that its decision is well-informed and reversible if necessary. As campaigner Iain Dalton aptly puts it, “We think the council shouldn’t be making decisions now that can’t be reversed.”

“It’s a matter of waiting a few months to see the outcome of the election and what the immediate policy changes of a government would be.” – Iain Dalton

Join the conversation and make your voice heard! Contact your local councillor and express your views on the proposed nursery closures. Together, we can ensure the best outcome for our children and communities.

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