Sheffield families allowed court judicial review of city nursery support cuts

Parents present a petition against the closure of The Meadows nursery in Shirecliffe at Sheffield town hall
Parents present a petition against the closure of The Meadows nursery in Shirecliffe at Sheffield town hall
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The High Court has given permission for families challenging Sheffield City Council’s grant funding for 30 nurseries in deprived areas to have a judicial review of their case.

At the High Court in Manchester, His Honour Judge Bird formally granted permission for the parents to proceed to a full hearing on July 29 and 30.

Sheffield Law Centre is backing the challenge by four women, who all have children in the nurseries affected.

The judge heard that their case is that the council’s decision would lead to a significant loss of service and probable closure of nurseries.

In his ruling, the judge recognised the value of childcare to families and to the children and said: “It does seem that, if I were to refuse permission, there could be a real risk of causing real injustice.”

The court granted permission to proceed on all five grounds of challenge that the claimants had put forward.

The judge also continued the order for anonymity granted previously to protect the children involved.

Douglas Johnson, from Sheffield Law Centre, said: “We previously invited the council to settle and avoid the need for court proceedings.

“Now the court has heard what both sides have to say, it is clear our case deserves a hearing and we are very pleased the judge rejected the council’s arguments.”

He said that the judge’s ruling gave the women confidence that their case has merit to it.

The news comes as Beck Primary School is bidding to take over an affected nursery next to the school in Shiregreen, the Early Days nursery in Parson Cross is being taken over by Meynell School and parents were told that The Meadows nursery in Shirecliffe is due to close in a few weeks.

Coun Jackie Drayton, Sheffield City Council’s Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families, said: “This case is now listed for judicial review and will be looked at by a new judge who will consider the evidence from both parties and make a decision.

“We do not believe it is the right thing to get drawn into details ahead of this hearing.

“What we can say is the Government’s cuts have forced the council to make savings of £140 million for the past two years, with £50 million more this year. They have taken £6.8 million of funding from the Early Intervention Grant to pay for their free early learning programme.

“The reality is that free early learning is not additional money – it is funded from money directly taken from existing budgets that pay for childcare subsidies. As this funding now follows the child rather than going directly to providers, we are left unable to continue to support providers with subsidies.

“There are so many difficult cuts which are having to be made concerning different areas of the council, not just in early years, and all are as a direct result of the devastating cuts imposed on us by this Coalition Government.”