THURROCK Council is facing a barrage of criticism over its “devastating” decision to close two Tilbury nurseries.

The council announced the closure of two of its nurseries, Little Pirates and Neptunes, after failing to find anyone to take them over.

The nurseries will close on Friday, July 15, with a loss of 33 staff and 126 nursery places.

John Kent, leader of Thurrock’s Labour group, said: “This is desperately sad news. When the council consulted on their closure plans last year, 92 per cent of residents said this provision was important. Thurrock Conservatives knew these nurseries were going to close before the local elections but, cynically, they kept quiet about it until after the elections.

“We all know this is the first of many cuts to come as they scrabble about to fill their £35 million financial black hole.”

Sara Muldowney, Labour’s chairman of the children’s services overview and scrutiny committee, added: “A consultation with local residents showed how well loved these nurseries are, sometimes with generations of the same family going to them as children.”

“The committee were reassured numerous times last year that the council were “cautiously optimistic” that a new provider could be found, with the date of closure being pushed from March until the end of the school year to allow more time.

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“With the announcement to close now coming on the heels of the local elections, this now seems like this was just a cynical attempt to push this unpopular decision to the other side of the local elections.”

Thurrock Unison branch secretary Peter Sansom said: “Nursery staff are absolutely devastated at the news that Little Pirates and Neptune will close.

“They’re not just upset at the prospect of losing the jobs they love, they know what a blow it is to their local communities too.

“Unless Thurrock and Westminster get their acts together, there will be a barrage of cuts to come, with meals and wheels and these nurseries just the first on the chopping block.”

Barry Johnson, councillor responsible for children’s cervices, said: “It is regrettable that we have not been able to find a provider with the expertise and financial standing to secure the future of these nurseries. We can’t rely on taxpayers to support the two nurseries financially while others across the borough operate successfully without council support.”