THE TIDDLYWINKS nursery at Deighton, threatened with the axe by Kirklees Council, has been saved.
But two others, Sankofa and Cambridge Road, are to close despite a huge public campaign to save them.
Clr Jim Dodds, Cabinet member for education and children’s services, said he made the U-turn after finding Tiddlywinks to be more viable than the others because of its strong community links.
Clr Dodds insisted that he had listened to the views of parents and staff who had been strongly opposed to the nurseries’ closure, but admitted that public opinion alone had not swayed his decision.
At a Press conference, Clr Dodds explained the reasoning behind his decision which came following a review of the children and young peoples’ services in July last year.
During the review it was revealed that the council was heavily subsidising the nurseries.
Clr Dodds said: “I am still of the opinion that I was right to make the decision to close them, it was important because we as an authority were subsidising the nurseries to the tune of £500,000 per year.”
Clr Dodds said he listened at length to the views of staff and parents concerned, after ordering a review of the decision in March.
He added: “I came to the conclusion that the best way forward was to close Sankofa Nursery and Cambridge Road Nursery and keep Tiddlywinks open.
“I have listened to what people have told me and the last thing I want to do is punish the most needy in our society.”
He said: “Sankofa is a small nursery and has struggled with staffing and viability, the premises are very small and provides adequate but limited opportunities in terms of space.
“Cambridge Road is a nursery located on an isolated road, and it does not serve any natural community. It’s in an old building which would need constant revenue to maintain it.”
Sankofa was closed on August 16 and all the children were transferred to Cambridge Road. Clr Dodds said Sankofa is to remain closed while its children will remain at Cambridge Road until it is also closed.
He said Tiddlywinks, unlike its counterparts, was a viable nursery to keep open. He commented: “This nursery is in a natural community and the premises are part of the Deighton Centre. The children come from the local community and its located in an area of high dependency.”
Council leader Robert Light was also at yesterday’s conference. He said: “The easy decision would have been to close all three, but what Clr Dodds has done is listen to views of the parents, staff together with the consultation reports.
“In the past Kirklees Council didn’t listen to consultations, but under this administration their views are listened to.”
Today the managers of all three nurseries will be informed of Clr Dodds’ recommendations, as will staff and ward councillors.
There will also be letters going out to all the parents concerned.
Clr Dodds said children’s individual needs will be looked at closely as will future employment options for staff.
He added: “This has gone on for far too long. I’d like to draw a line under this and for us to all work together to ensure that the relocation of children is done quickly.
“We’ve got to put the children at the top of the agenda – any further uncertainty isn’t in their interests.”
Parent Mel Mills who has spent months campaigning for the nurseries to stay open, told the Examiner that she was delighted with Clr Dodds’ recommendation to keep open Tiddlywinks, which her two children attend.
She said: “I’m glad, but sad at the same time because its such as shame for the others. We didn’t go out there for one of them, we went out for all three.
“It was never about me and my children, it was about all the children and all nurseries.
“I’m pleased because my children can stay at Tiddlywinks which they love, but I really do feel for those who will have to find places for their children elsewhere.
“A lot of people will be disappointed and frustrated as they will be thinking, What do we do now?
“But I am glad that we (the public) have been listened to. We came out with such force that there was no way they could ignore us. They had to stop and listen.
“It’s been hard work, but when it comes to children’s welfare you’ve got to fight back, you’ve got to build the future for them.”