Campaigners fighting to save two Bexhill nurseries from possible closure under proposed county council cuts handed in a petition signed by more than 1,100 people.
Yesterday (Tuesday, July 23), nursery parents and district councillors delivered the document to the manager of Cygnets Nursery, as well as a letter calling for the suspension of the consultation due to close at the end of this month.
A total of 1,118 signatures have been collected so far on the Change.org petition.
A public meeting was also held on July 12 where residents and parents put their questions to East Sussex County Council about the proposed cuts, particularly concerning the likely privatisation or closure of Rainbow and Cygnets Nurseries.
The outcome of the meeting, it was decided, was to call for the suspension of the consultation.
Sidley councillor Sam Coleman said: “It was important that residents had this opportunity to quiz one of the local county councillors over this issue. In my view, this consultation hasn’t made it fully clear the impact of these proposed changes nor has it offered respondents the chance to comment properly on the possible nursery sell-off that will happen as a result.
“That is why other councillors and I are joining the parents in calling for the consultation to be suspended.”
An evidence pack, compiled by the Rother Labour Group, was also handed in on Tuesday, which campaigners said details the difference between public and private nursery costs, the need for affordable nursery places in the area, the impact of the proposed changes and the testimony of parents and families who will be affected by the changes.
Parent Lisa Murrell said: “I chose Cygnets as it has the sessions that suit my needs and I can use it all year round. They also helped with the referral for my son to speech and language, which I know sped the process up.
“Cygnets has a lovely family atmosphere and the staff have always been happy and helpful. My son loves going there and has never not wanted to go.
“The thought of this facility closing will cause a lot of families heartache and problems. It could even force some parents out of work as they cannot find affordable or childcare that suits their needs.”
The county council said the proposals will help support more than 2,000 vulnerable families.
A spokesman said: “The proposal to no longer subsidise the Cygnets and Rainbow nurseries, is part of draft early help strategy drawn up to ensure our increasingly limited resources for early help services are used in ways that will do the most for the people of East Sussex, particularly the most vulnerable families.
“Our draft strategy has been drawn up following an extensive review of our service. Proposals will help us support more than 2,100 families at risk of crisis each year and 500 vulnerable young people, and continue to offer support to all families of pre-school children.
“We realise the present uncertainty is difficult for both families who use the nurseries and for our staff. While under the proposals the council subsidy would stop, we would look for other nursery providers who could operate in these children’s centres so the nurseries don’t have to close.
“To try and minimise the potential uncertainty we have already written to all the families with children in the two nurseries to tell them even though the consultation is ongoing we will guarantee there will be no change to the nurseries until September 2020.”