Conservative and Labour parties argue over closed Thornes Park creche
Wakefield’s Labour and Conservative councillors have accused each other of “playing politics” in a row over the closure of a popular creche described as “a lifeline” for parents.
Conservative member Nic Stansby called for the authority to reopen the exercise-orientated creche, which was based in the leisure centre at the city’s Thornes Park.
But the Labour group said that the 2018 closure of the service was unavoidable, and accused the Conservative government of “ripping the financial guts” out of its budget.
Speaking at a full council meeting on Wednesday, Coun Stansby said that the creche had cost around £2,100 a year to run.
To fund it, the Tories said they would give up a new allowance controversially granted to both main parties to pay their chief whips. That was agreed for the first time back in May.
Suggesting that the service had been positive for the mental health of stressed parents, Coun Stansby said: “Medical professionals will always recommend exercise as a way to combat depression.
“Finding the way to that motivation is very difficult when you’ve got a baby keeping you up at night. It’s easy to see why it was a lifeline for so many parents.
“Other creche facilities are out of many families’ reach, financially. Thornes Park was an inclusive creche, both for disabilities and financial reasons.”
Tory group leader Nadeem Ahmed backed the motion and said the creche’s closure had had bad “unintended consequences”.
But the council’s Cabinet member for leisure, Coun Jacquie Speight, said that the creche had been “underused”.
She said: “We did consult with users on whether or not they would pay a little bit more to cover the costs. But they indicated they either weren’t prepared or weren’t able to pay.
“The amount it cost to run was a little bit more than what you’ve said, though it was small.
“It was a very small service, but unfortunately we had to make this decision because of the funding cuts this council has had to deal with.”
In his trademark rabble-rousing style, Labour backbencher Steve Tulley added: “I take exception when people start looking across to this side of the chamber, and saying ‘We’ve given up this, what are you going to give up?’
“This council’s had its guts financially ripped out over the last 10 years.
“Reject the motion put by these people, who are only playing political games with it.”
Coun Stansby responded: “I was really hoping you wouldn’t politicise this, because it wasn’t a political motion. I’m really disappointed that you’ve done that.”