COUNCILLORS were today debating a report into the decision to close three Huddersfield nurseries.
In February Kirklees Council decided to shut Sankofa Nursery in Hillhouse, Tiddlywinks in Deighton and the Cambridge Road Nursery.
But a review of the decision was ordered the following month after campaigners collected 5,000 signatures against the plan.
And last week Clr Jim Dodds, the Cabinet member for children’s services, announced that Sankofa will close but Tiddlywinks will remain open. Cambridge Road’s fate will not be decided until next year.
Today councillors were debating a report into the issue drawn up by a special scrutiny panel.
The ad hoc group interviewed Kirklees councillors and officers as well as parents and union representatives over the summer.
Their report said parents and children would have to travel further if the nurseries closed, costing an extra £20 a week in bus fares in the worst case scenario. It also says that other nurseries in the area may not be able to cope if the Sankofa, Tiddlywinks and Cambridge Road were shut.
The report says: “The panel was informed that there is adequate capacity within the local system to provide day care to meet current and future need. The panel is not convinced that this is the case. Further the panel is not persuaded that sufficient consideration has been given to whether these providers are able to meet the needs of children with disabilities.”
The report also criticises the way the original decision to shut the nurseries was taken.
It says: “The panel is concerned that the impact of these closures on families and on the local community may not have been given sufficient consideration.”
The report goes on to note that councillors in the wards effected were only given the opportunity to formally have their say at a public meeting on July 9 – five months after the decision to close was taken. It says: “The panel is concerned that there is little evidence to show that there was any discussion with ward members.”
One councillor each from the Conservatives, Lib Dems and Labour sat on the panel.Chairwoman Clr Margaret Fearnley said yesterday the report remained relevant despite the decision to reverse some of the closures. She said: “I feel that our recommendations still stand.”
The report was being debated this afternoon at the monthly meeting of Kirklees Council at Huddersfield Town Hall.