Hope for nurseries facing closure

5:35pm Wednesday 23rd January 2013

By Alexa Copeland

HOPE remains for supporters of two nurseries destined for closure as Darlington Council will look again at its decision to shut them.

The council’s cabinet voted on January 8 to close the Kids and Co nurseries on Borough Road and Northwood after deciding it could no longer afford to subsidise the loss-making service.

Following the vote, public sector union Unison wrote to the council’s scrutiny committee asking for a review which has now led to the decision being ‘called in’ – meaning the council has to re-visit the issue.

However, Coun Eleanor Lister, chair of the children and young people scrutiny committee, warned that the call in should not be "hi-jacked" by Unison who have already had time to put their case forward.

She said: “Unison have had the opportunity of a 90-day full statutory consultation period to argue the case for their members.

“The call in cannot be allowed to be hi-jacked at the public's expense for the union to rerun the issue that they unsuccessfully argued already"

Dawn Taylor of Unison’s Darlington branch said: “Unison does not believe that a fair and transparent process has been undertaken and that the decision of cabinet was purely based on the current deficit within the service; a deficit that was allowed to grow unchecked.”

She said that the loss of 44 jobs and the 180 nursery places provided by Kids and Co would be “devastating”, adding: “Parents rely on Kids and Co because of its flexible provision and for many its closure could have serious implications for those in work and education.

“Unison welcomes the move by the Scrutiny Panel to call in this decision and the hope now is that the issues raised by Unison are addressed.”

Sarah Walker, a leading figure in the campaign to save the nurseries said that although spirits were low in the immediate aftermath of the closure decision, parents soon bounced back to continue their fight with support from a solicitor and Unison.

She said: “We are feeling quite confident now; it is still a cause that we feel very strongly about.”

A council spokeswoman said that the Kids and Co issue will be debated at the council’s Scrutiny Committee meeting on January 31.

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