ONE OF THE reasons why Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs decided to explore privatising the Borough’s three remaining day care nurseries was the cost. His former Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services, Cllr Rachael Saunders, who resigned from the Cabinet earlier this month, agreed.
Parents and carers who are recent and current users of these nurseries have tried to point out that the Council nurseries take a large number of children who are disabled and/or disadvantaged – which means that staff ratios, and therefore costs, are higher. They have also asked for a breakdown of the costs, so that the public can scrutinise how the Council’s costs are apportioned to the nursery budget.
However, the Mayor and his Cabinet appeared to be insistent that the subsidy had to stop. There are plenty of private day care nurseries in the borough: why couldn’t the private sector provide all the day care places in the borough?
While that discussion continues, enter – stage left, presumably – London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who is about to use public money to subsidise… private nursery places!
It’s all down to a new initiative in Dalston – the Workspace Creche, which bills itself as a “antidote to London’s exorbitant childcare costs”. Parents and carers pay a monthly fee of £400, which gives them 24/7 access to a desk and superfast internet in a “co-working space”. There is an onsite crèche, which runs morning (9am-12 noon) and afternoon sessions (1-4pm) from 4th September and which offers children an engaging and secure environment. The £400 fee gives parents two free crèche sessions, and further sessions cost £15 each – that would be a cost to parents of £120 a week for five day care, which is below what is usually available in the private sector.
“How is this possible?” we hear you ask. Let us explain, dear reader.
The workspace is the brainchild of art organisation V22, which says, “In order to keep essential creatives in the capital and make workspace provision more accessible for parents… [we] are opening a much needed workspace crèche in Dalston… Childcare in Hackney, and indeed across London, is expensive (39% more expensive than outside London), often inflexible, and hard to secure, and as a result many artists, entrepreneurs, creatives and freelancers are struggling to continue their work whilst not giving up being hands-on parents. If successful, V22 want to make childcare provision an integral part of all our studio and workspace buildings across London.”
And this is why the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has supported the project. He is giving £6,000 through the Spacehive platform and as part of the Mayor’s Crowdfund London initiative. Mayor Khan explains, “Our crowdfunding initiative is a chance for all Londoners to take part in the regeneration of their neighbourhoods from the grassroots up. I am delighted to be supporting projects like the V22 Workspace Crèche that will help strengthen local communities and help to make London an even greater city.”
It seems that Mayor Biggs does not share his vision. Tower Hamlets is spending time and money on various schemes to help parents start or return to work – but not on associated childcare costs, it seems. Perhaps Tower Hamlets parents should ask Mayor Khan to have a word with John Biggs.
•For more information about the co-working space in Dalston, contact: