Over 250 parents, nursery workers and trade unionists vowed to stop nursery closures in Salford, Greater Manchester, at a meeting last Saturday.
Labour-run Salford council wants to close all five council-run Sure Start nurseries in the area, claiming it doesn’t have the cash to keep them running.
The cuts would mean compulsory redundancy for 106 low-paid nursery workers.
The Unison union members were only told of the plans when the consultation began on 9 February—despite the council knowing for a long time before that.
All five nurseries are rated outstanding by government inspector Ofsted. They care for around 350 children, many with special educational needs.
The closures represent a cut of £1.5 million. But the council simply blames the Tory government’s cuts to local authority budgets.
In the event of a closure only nine nurseries rated outstanding would remain in Salford—all of them privately run.
For many parents the closures would mean paying more and travelling further for worse quality care.
Parent Elizabeth Longwill responded to the news by setting up an online petition calling on the council to rethink the consultation.
She told Socialist Worker that the closures are “short signed and unimaginative”.
“The nurseries make such a difference, the staff are supportive and my daughter loves it,” she said.
“It’s going to be more expensive to put her somewhere else.
“But it’s more than that—the nursery has rooted me in the community. Salford is being regenerated which should be lifting everyone up—but working families have been left to sink.”
Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour MPs for Salford and Eccles, told the packed meeting that she “will do anything I can” to stop the closures.
She called for setting up a “taskforce” and said some services such as holiday clubs could take place inside nurseries to make them “more financially viable”.
Ameen Hadi from Salford Unison said campaigners are demanding the “council withdraws the consultation and fight with us against central government for the money”.
He implored Labour councillors, “If you’re willing to fight the government we are willing to stand with you.”
The campaign will have to escalate if the council doesn’t withdraw the plans—and workers need to get ready for strikes. Parents are frustrated that a Labour council is making these cuts. Elizabeth explained, “Labour was instrumental in setting up these Sure Start centres.
“They turn around and say it’s Tory cuts, but we have a Labour mayor and a Labour council.
“This has angered me on a personal level, but it’s on a national level too.
“People can only take so much. I don’t think we have to accept that things are going to get worse.
“I will take the fight to the Tories if I have to. If we have to march on Westminster we will.”