‘We’ve proved ourselves a force to be reckoned with’

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A Sheffield mum who took part in a judicial review challenging Sheffield City Council’s decision to cut funding to its Early Years service has reacted to the decision.

The judge rejected the case, taken by Sheffield Law Centre on behalf of four parents and carers. They challenged the decision to cut grant funding to 20 community nurseries in deprived areas of the city.

The judge found for the council and said that the public consultation process had been clear and rational.

He also paid tribute to the nurseries. He said in his ruling: ““The 20 nurseries affected by this decision which provide valuable facilities to the families which they serve are to be commended on the contribution they have made and continue to make to their local communities.”

The mum, who cannot be named by order of the court, said in a statement: “Although we did not receive the outcome that our Early Years staff, parents and carers so badly needed, we do not view the whole process as a waste of time or a complete failure.

“We would not have been able to bring this matter to a judicial review if we had not been able to highlight several questionable actions and decisions that were taken and implemented by the city council. We were successful in doing that, and that in itself speaks volumes about the local authority’s commitment to our under-fives provisions and service users, not to mention our children.

“In the beginning we were isolated individuals, by the end of this difficult, and emotional journey, we have become a team of politically and legally educated activists who have proved ourselves a force to be reckoned with – what’s not to like about that?

“We parents and carers have learned more about our legal rights than we ever knew possible and, far from bowing out with a fizzle, we will continue to educate ourselves and each other and do whatever we can to support our Early Years services in this city.

“Ultimately, we don’t want to have to battle with our city council where the welfare of our children is concerned.

“We voted in each of our council members because we trust them to be people of standing and pillars of strength and that includes implementing schemes, providing resources and supporting nurseries for the benefit of the children of this city.

“We are wholly confident that the city council has learned a lesson from this, and that in the future they will communicate more openly and with more honesty when making life-changing decisions that effect hard-to-reach, poverty-stricken areas of our community negatively and fully expect them to revise what they seem to think is an acceptable consultation process when making such decisions.

“As although, as the judge decreed, the city council has the final say on such matters, we residents have the right to our say too and they must be more mindful of that.

“On a personal level I have found the whole process empowering. I have been attending council meetings, not content with just standing about chanting and waving placards, (which I have done!) I’ve taken up training to become a legal secretary and intend to use my new-found skills which I am still developing to help other tenants and residents in the city.

“If I could send a message to the council it would be this: ‘You won this time, but should we really be fighting? We need to work together and we will take every opportunity to do so’.

“Finally, we are all incredibly grateful to Douglas Johnson and the team at the Sheffield Law Centre for their outstanding commitment and tireless work. Their efforts have proved invaluable. SLC is a much-needed organisation in this city.”