Ian Shires

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Willenhall North Ward, Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Walsall MBC Learn more

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Decision to Close Walsall’s last Sure Start Children’s Centre challenged.

by Ian Shires on 25 July, 2020

A decision by Walsall’s all conservative Cabinet last Wednesday to close Stanley’s Nursery has been called in by opposition councillors.

Cabinet made its decision in spite of appeals from parents to keep the facility open for their toddlers. It comes on the back of a decision back in February of this year to consult with the parents on four options, one of which was closure of the facility based at the Birchills Sure Start Centre.

Following confirmation that the Call-In process had been triggered, Lib Dem Group Leader Cllr Ian Shires said that he felt that the consultation had been a sham.

“The Cabinet made its decision on the back of a 37 page report, the aim of which was to determine, as the title of the report stated, the future of childcare provision at the centre, when all along it would appear from the report’s recommendations, the aim was to close the facility.” 

Reasons for call-in Signed by Cllr Ian Shires: Cllr Aftab Nawaz: Cllr Dan Barker: Cllr Lee Jeavons and Cllr Tina Jukes are as follows

We note with concern the decision to close Stanley Nursery, Birchills.  Our concern centres on the disproportionate impact this closure will have in a deprived area of Walsall.

Whilst we are aware savings will be made, there are concerns that any savings made by the closure of the last remaining centre run by the council will create a long term legacy that further embeds deprivation in the Birchills area and ultimately would cost the authority and its partners significantly more.

The nursery provides much needed care and support to a cohort of vulnerable children, not just now but into the future.  The long term impact of the closure has been recognised by One Walsall and the Dorothy Patterson Hospital who will find it more challenging be able to operate valuable services in the Birchills area.

In calling in this decision we note:

  • The historic time-line from as far back as February 2015 through February 2017, and in particular the decision in February 2020 to consult on options for the future of the nursery provision at Stanley’s Nursery.
  • That all decisions up to and including the February 2020 decision to consult were taken pre-COVID-19 Pandemic
  • That the decision to close was taken without the benefit of lessons learned from COVID-19 Pandemic

 We further note:

That Council’s across England, through the Local Government Association (LGA), are calling for a review of the early years system and are supportive of the Children’s Commissioner for England’s call through her Report “Best Beginnings” for the Government to make early years provision central to the COVID-19 Fightback. Early Years provision is known to assist in reducing educational and health inequalities.

In light of the above we urge the Cabinet to reconsider the closure of this setting and identify alternative funding that will sustain the centre and thus support local people to improve their lives.

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