Leading councillor urges government to close nurseries and fund their owners

The deputy leader of the council has called on the government to close nurseries and offer financial support to early years providers.

Green councillor Hannah Clare, who also chairs the Brighton and Hove City Council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee, made the call after the council closed its own nurseries.

At a virtual meeting today (Monday 11 January), Councillor Clare said that the council had been ahead of the government when it closed primary schools to all but vulnerable children and key workers’ children.

And Councillor Clare said, last year, she wrote to the government calling on ministers to cancel this year’s summer exams – a move which the Prime Minister announced on Monday 4 January.

Councillor Clare told the committee: “We said at the start that we were making the brave decision that government weren’t willing to make, based on concerns for safety of staff, families and in recognition of the shocking rise in cases in our city.

“And we heard huge relief from our community when they did make that decision – and that we had made the call a few days earlier, given that the government’s announcement meant children had gone into school and then back out again within 24 hours.

“Having reviewed the data on the rise in cases – at that time, telling us of an increasing number of cases across all ages and up to a 700 per cent increase since the end of the November lockdown – we still felt there was inconsistency in the guidance and later in the week we made the decision to close council-run nurseries to all but vulnerable children and the children of key workers.

“The same justification for schools applied. We need to protect our wider community – and the public health figures were showing it.

“The figures for cases among nought to four-year-olds were very similar to five to nines. But even if you weren’t looking at the children themselves, it’s about staff, it’s about families and it’s about those in our community.

“It’s about decision-makers making the decisions needed to bring down rates of transmission, so we are ready to open when it is safe to do so.

“As a council, we can do little about private early years providers. But we know many are concerned about the effect on the community from remaining open to all children.

“Sadly, without support from the government, making this call will come at a financial cost to them.”

Councillor Clare thanked Labour councillor John Allcock for joining her in writing to Children’s Minister Vicky Ford, asking for financial support for private nurseries to help them cover the cost of closing through this lockdown.

She said that the chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty had said in the press that parents and carers should avoid sending children to nurseries where possible.

Councillor Clare said: “This is a testing time for families and we have also focused on ensuring provision is in place to support families in need through our approach. Government should do similar.”

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