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'Save our crèche': Ripon mums rally as facility's future is thrown into doubt

Izzy Anderson's two-year-old son Edward playing at the crche.
Izzy Anderson's two-year-old son Edward playing at the crche.

A group of Ripon mums are campaigning to keep the city's leisure centre crèche open, after the launch of a consultation that has cast doubt over its future.

Parents have described the crèche as a "lifeline," but Harrogate Borough Council has raised concerns about its viability, highlighting their latest figures that only four people attend each session on average, with annual running costs of £20,000.

The council's new consultation invites residents to share their views on the crèche's future.

Emma Wright, whose four-year-old daughter has used the crèche, said she thinks a lack of publicity from Harrogate Borough Council could explain why numbers are so low.

She said: "When I've told people about this, some have said they didn't even know the crèche existed. I think if more people knew about it, they'd use it.

"The crèche has been a lifeline for so many with small children over the years. When my daughter was a baby, it meant so much for me to be able to workout and get a shower in peace, knowing she was being cared for in the next room.

"The staff are really friendly, the kids who go there are all friends, and it's just such an important community resource. It would be such a shame if people didn't have the opportunity to use it.

"I hope people take the time to complete the survey to give the council more information on ways in which they could improve on the current model."

Mum-of-four Izzy Anderson said: "The crèche enabled me to keep fit and more importantly gain some headspace from the demands of motherhood.

"Without the crèche, I’m sure so many mums would’ve felt isolated when they became parents. Most of my network of friends in Ripon I met through this gym and the crèche."

In a statement, Harrogate Borough Council's Cabinet member for culture, tourism and sport, Stanley Lumley, whose portfolio covers Ripon leisure centre, said: "The consultation is designed to gather everyone’s views about the future of the crèche. We are open to ideas, but the fact remains the facility has to be subsidised to the tune of £20,000 each year and this simply isn’t sustainable."

The consultation document reads: "Harrogate Borough Council, in common with other local authorities across England, continues to face financial pressures. The council's Medium Term Financial Strategy identifies the importance of ensuring that we plan and manage our finances in a way that allows the council to align its limited resources with the priorities set out in its 2018-2022 Corporate Strategy.

"Against this background it is essential that the council regularly reviews loss making, non-statutory services such as the crèche at Ripon Leisure Centre. Despite charging for use, the crèche costs the council circa £20,000 per annum to operate.

"In 2017 the council consulted in connection with building a new swimming pool adjacent to Ripon Leisure Centre. The consultation asked about crèche provision and 79% of respondents indicated that they would not use such a facility.

"The crèche currently operates Monday to Friday from 9:30-11:30am and charges £4.20 per child per session. With an average of 3.7 attendees per session during the last 12 months and a requirement for a minimum of two members of staff to be present at all times, the council needs to consider the future of the facility. We would welcome your comments on this issue."

To have your say on the future of Ripon leisure centre's crèche, click here.