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Mums and campaigners outside the Town Hall

“Mum’s the word!” as Council silences nursery protest

IT WAS A CASE OF “Mum’s the word!” at Tower Hamlets Cabinet on Thursday, 25th July as pro-nursery campaigners were banned from addressing the Mayor and Cabinet.

Campaigners had wanted to speak to the Mayor about his controversial proposal to close the three remaining Local Authority Day Nurseries (LADN) in Tower Hamlets. The proposal was set out in a Report which went to the June Cabinet meeting – and campaigners believe the Report is flawed.

“We have serious concerns about the proposal,” said a spokesperson from Save Our Nurseries. “In the report, the Council admits that it stopped children from the waiting list taking up vacancies at the nurseries – and then based its viability assessment on the reduced number of children attending. It promised all children could find other places in the day-care or education sectors – but without any serious evidence that suitable places were available. This is not a safe basis on which to plan our children’s futures.”

Campaigners also noted that the Report refers to an intention to adapt a local centre to accommodate some children with special needs – but the Report doesn’t say when the adaptations would be done or how they would be paid for. This point was picked up at the Overview & Scrutiny Committee’s review of the Mayor’s decision to shut the nurseries.

“There’s too many unanswered questions for this to be a safe consultation,” said the Save Our Nurseries spokesperson. “So when we were told we couldn’t address Cabinet, we had to show that we had been silenced.”

Silenced mums in the public seats at Cabinet

Silenced mums in the public seats at Cabinet

It is not yet clear who was responsible for silencing the mums.

They made their request to address Cabinet on 12th July, in a petition which made it quite clear that the concerns were about the Report to the June Cabinet – and whether it was a safe basis on which the consultation could go ahead. The petition request read:
“We the undersigned note the concern expressed at the Overview & Scrutiny Committee meeting on 11th July and by the general public over the proposal to conduct a public consultation over the proposal to close the three remaining Local Authority Day Nurseries. We wish to speak to the Cabinet in respect of our concerns over the standard of the Report to the June Cabinet meeting.”

At first the Cabinet Clerk stated that the Mums should feed their views about the nurseries into the public consultation.  Mums had to point out that they wanted to talk to the Cabinet about whether the consultation was based on a sound proposal – which was why they wished to address Cabinet before the consultation went any further. Still they were turned down.

On 18th July, the Cabinet Clerk wrote to the Mums to say that he would raise their request to speak to Cabinet with the Mayor. However, at Cabinet on 25th July, Tower Hamlets Executive Mayor John Biggs noticed the silent protest – and said that he had not received any requests to speak.

Mums will now be taking up the strange way in which their request to speak was handled.

•Read more about it:
Nursery campaigners surprise Biggs at suffragette event
Biggs upset on nurseries as “councillors say no”

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