Tories and Labour unite for fight to save crèches

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OPPOSITION councillors are to unite in a bid to save the four crèches run by Edinburgh Leisure from closure.

The Conservative and Labour groups on the city council have put forward a joint motion for next week's full council meeting calling for the city council to do all it can to keep the facilities open.

Edinburgh Leisure has said that, unless an alternative provider can be found, crches at Ainslie Park Leisure Centre, Drumbrae Leisure Centre, Portobello Swim Centre and Gracemount Leisure Centre will close by March next year.

The decision came after council officials' budget recommendations included a massive cut in Edinburgh Leisure's allowance and led to a "Save Our Crches" campaign being re-ignited – just a year after the campaign had been successful in stopping closures.

The first "Save Our Crches" protest was set to take place today as anger about the proposal grows. The Tory/Labour motion is expected to mean that campaigners will be able to address councillors at a full council meeting next week.

It notes that there are "budget pressures" on Edinburgh Leisure and that the council has to provide facilities for all users, "including parents of young children".

Councillor Gordon Buchan, sport and leisure spokesman for the Conservative group, said: "We want to ensure that the service keeps going. We want to encourage groups to come together and agree a long-lasting solution between the council, Edinburgh Leisure and other groups.

"Whether it is Edinburgh Leisure or AN Other I'm fairly relaxed about. The important thing is that a service continues."

It is understood that the Labour group is looking at budget proposals for Edinburgh Leisure that would mean it would not have to close the four crches.

But figures show that there is a significant subsidy of more than 12 per visit for the crches, which attract around 200 visits a week.

Councillor Paul Godzik, sport and leisure spokesman for the Labour group, said: "We want the service to continue, we recognise the importance of crches and we are willing to investigate any effective ways of keeping them open."

The first "Save The Crches" demonstration was due to take place at 10:45am today outside Ainslie Park Leisure Centre.

Protests are also due to take place at Portobello Swim Centre at 10:30am tomorrow and at Gracemount Leisure Centre tomorrow at 10:15am. A mass demonstration will also be held outside the City Chambers before the full council meeting next Thursday.

Edinburgh Leisure has said that it does not want to close the facilities but said its funding could reduce by 12 per cent.

City sport and leisure leader Councillor Deidre Brock said: "Edinburgh Leisure will look at alternative models of provision."