Tower Hamlets parents to continue fight against nursery closures

(From left) Nouruja Rahman and Alicja Topij at the Save our Public Nurseries campain Pic: Olivia Campbell

Parents in Tower Hamlets have said they will continue their campaign against “[Mayor] Biggs’ disastrous decision” after a decision to close three council nurseries was upheld.

Despite a fierce protest staged by parents from the borough, and a campaign which has been ongoing for several years, the nurseries will close because of “deep cuts to government funding.”

Parents said they were left shocked and “heartbroken” when 39 councillors voted against a motion to reverse Biggs’ decision.

At a meeting in Ocotber, Tower Hamlets Labour Councillors had condemned their own council for attempting to close the nurseries, yet opted for closure less than three weeks later; the decision was described as “delivering a slap in the face to campaigners.”

Only two Conservative councillors, Peter Golds and Andrew Woods, voted for the decision to be reconsidered after they filed the motion last week.

Protestors at a rally against nursery closures. Pic: Olivia Campbell

Councillors and parents had been campaigning to prevent the closure of Overland in Bow, which houses a speciality deaf unit, as well as Mary Sambrook and John Smith, both located in Wapping.

Mayor Biggs announced the decision to close the nurseries in September, claiming it was “financially unsustainable” to keep them open.

A spokesperson for Unison, who have worked alongside the Save Tower Hamlets Nurseries Campaign, said: “This is absolutely devastating news, particularly to the parents who have campaigned to keep our nurseries open since 2014.”

Candace Reading, a campaigner and the owner of Tower Hamlets Mums, said: “After waiting all night, just to hear such a short debate: I’m heartbroken.”

Nirupama Naidu, whose son attended Overland, said that without the specialist services the nursery offered her son would not have been ready to go to nursery school.

She said: “My son made tremendous progress with his speech at Overland and it is really upsetting to see that other children will not benefit from the service.”

Placards for the protest in Tower Hamlets Pic: Olivia Campbell

Speaking of the U-turn, Mufeedah Bustin, Labour Councillor for Island Gardens, said: “Having reviewed all the information, the right decision is to support the decision taken by the mayor and council to close the nurseries. This is not an easy decision to make and is one that is born out of financial necessity.”

Prior to the failed motion, members from Tower Hamlets Mums, Save Tower Hamlets Nurseries, TH Momentum and Unison all joined forces to picket the council outside Mulberry Town Hall.

Alicja Topij, a campaigner, said to the council: “What happened? Have you forgotten that you stood with us [to] support the children, the most vulnerable people in society?”

She added: “Four years on, we’re still standing here, even after 3000 people have spoken.”

Mayor Biggs announced that Tower Hamlets Council need to save £58 million in the next two years.

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