South East Wales

Protest over Rhondda Cynon Taf's proposed nursery cuts

Media captionThe council there wants to withdraw full-time nursery places for three year olds

About 100 parents have turned up outside Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT) council's headquarters in Clydach Vale to protest against proposed cuts.

The council is thinking of cutting free nursery provision for all three year olds, proposing children start their education later.

It has to save £56m over the next four years, but no decisions have been made.

The Welsh government's draft budget has revealed local government funding will be cut by 5.81% across Wales.

RCT council - whose budget for 2012/13 was £436.9m - has proposed children start full-time school aged four, not three as they do now, saving £4.5m a year.

Banners and placards

Some campaigners at the headquarters threatened to withhold their council tax for a month.

The protesters were carrying banners and placards saying "future full time nursery pupil" and "future pilot" and wore T-shirts with "parents against the cuts in education to RCT".

The council is about to launch a consultation that could see infants starting school on a part-time, rather than the current full-time basis.

Around 10,000 people have signed a petition against the proposed nursery provision cuts.

Campaigner Sarah Lea, from Williamstown, Tonypandy, said: "Children's education is important to everyone but in this area, we are the second most deprived area in Wales.

"Being full-time in nursery school in this area has been around for as long as anyone can remember.

"There aren't enough provisions in the area for any of us to go anywhere due to the notice and I feel it's important that we fight for our children to achieve their very best.

"Education has always been very important to me and I want to carry it on for my children."

The council also has 14 of its 26 libraries earmarked for closure, which would save £800,000 a year.

They include Treherbert, Ton Pentre, Penygraig, Ynyshir, Maerdy, Cwmbach, Penrhiwceiber, Ynysybwl, Cilfynydd, Tonyrefail, Nantgarw, Beddau and Pontyclun.

Proposed changes to youth services could save £2.2m, while £300,000 could be cut by ending the delivery of meals-on-wheels at the weekend.

Closing 10 of the 19 day centres in RCT would recoup £600,000 a year, the authority says.

'No choice'

Paul Cannon, deputy leader and cabinet member for economic development at RCT, said most of its budget is tied up.

"Other than £140m, which is what we have as a discretionary spend, the other money is accounted for," he said.

"We can't cut into that, we've got no choice so our savings have to come out of a relatively small amount of money and like I said that's £140m."

Mr Cannon said he understood that people were upset about planned cuts to nursery services.

"People are going to be upset about it but all I can say is that we have to look at all areas of spend within this authority and nursery education is one of those," he added.

"We fulfil our statutory obligations to education where we provide over and above statutory education, which we do in this case."

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