Parents, union leaders and community activists joined forces to demonstrate against proposed nursery closures in Blackpool.
Placard-waving opponents of the plans by the council to shut its last two remaining nurseries to save £250,000 gathered outside the Sure Start Centre on Dingle Avenue, Grange Park, today.
They were due to hold a second protest outside the Brunswick and Talbot Sure Start Centre on Gorton Street today.
Nurseries at both centres are earmarked to close on August 31 with the loss of 26 jobs.
Hundreds of people have signed petitions calling for a change of heart by the council.
Sarah Lambert, 31, of Grange Park, will have to find a new nursery for her son Oliver, who is three.
There is very little other nursery provision
She said: “He has been going to this nursery for nearly two years and loves it. He knows the staff and has lots of friends here.
“To take him to a nursery further away, off the estate, will be difficult and if I can’t get him a place, he won’t be able to go.
“I have done courses at the Sure Start Centre, but without childcare I won’t be able to do them.”
Joanna Woods, 37, of Poulton Old Road, said: “My son went to the nursery while I did courses here, and now I run my own business and my son is doing well at school after the good foundation he got here.
“It’s also an important part of the community, and there is very little other nursery provision within close distance.”
Julia Orry, branch secretary of Unison for Blackpool Council, said: “There are 26 people losing their jobs here while the councillors have just given themselves a 32 per cent pay rise.
“It is an appalling way to treat people.”
Protesters say they have collected around 1,200 online signatures, and hundreds more on paper petitions which have been put into shops.
They hope to collect 1,500 signatures which would be enough to force a council debate.
The council says there are 2,400 nursery places available in Blackpool provided by 64 private nurseries and 65 childminders, but demand for only 2,200 places which means there is over provision.
Coun John Jones, cabinet member for children’s safeguarding, said it had been a “very difficult decision”.