York’s “nursery crisis” is forcing people to work part-time, putting a “burden” on grandparents and “hurting the economy”, a parliamentary candidate said.

Luke Charters, Labour’s candidate for York Outer, was drawing on his own experience of his son’s nursery closing.

Mr Charters said he and his wife chose to send their son to Sandmartins Nursery, based at the York Biotech Campus at Sand Hutton, last year.

They were “really happy with” Sandmartins, he explained, but shortly after “the stressful day arrived” and his son started they were told by staff that the nursery would close.

“There were not enough staff, cost pressures, the lease was running out; the combination of these different strains on the business meant that it was closing,” Mr Charters said.

“For us, it was a minor catastrophe, a mad scramble to look around and find last-minute care.”

As The Press reported at the time, the nursery, which first opened in 1996 and was rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted, said the decision to close was not taken lightly.

“We wish to stress this has not been an easy decision for either of us, as we know the impact on everyone is huge,” co-owners Debbie Ashby and Helen Pearson said in a letter to parents at the time.

“This decision was quicker than we would have liked but we had to take into account the academic year.”

Debbie Ashby and Helen Pearson who decided to close Sandmartins Nursery near YorkDebbie Ashby and Helen Pearson who decided to close Sandmartins Nursery near York (Image: Supplied)

Mr Charters said parents across England face similar problems with nursery care as they “try to take up the government’s promised free childcare only to be told the same story”.

He added: “Like many parents, we found there is a fundamental lack of childcare provision in York.

“Many York nurseries have a year-long waiting list, many want children who can attend full-time, many do not really want to give part-time places.

“Stories abound of couples signing up for places before babies are even born. It's forcing people to work part-time, it's putting the burden on grandparents and it's hurting the economy.”

He was speaking as Labour, in its General Election manifesto, pledged to “break down the barriers to opportunity” for young people by recruiting more teachers, opening new school-based nurseries and introducing a modern curriculum.

“This is the change York’s parents are crying out for,” Mr Charters said.

Tories have 'expanded access to free nursery places to thousands' across York, says Julian Sturdy

Julian Sturdy, the Conservative candidate for York Outer and sitting MP, said the Tories have “expanded access to free nursery places to thousands of families across York boosting childhood development and allowing parents - both mothers and fathers - the option to return to work earlier than they would have been able to”. 

He added that 30 hours of free childcare a week had been rolled out for working parents of two-year-olds, as of April.

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“This is going to be expanded to all children from age nine months up from September 2024. The full package is expected to be available in September 2024,” Mr Sturdy said.

“There is a real acknowledgement that this is the best way to support hard working parents balance work and family - with the package worth £6,500 every year with a two-year-old. 

Julian Sturdy, the Conservative candidate for York Outer and sitting MPJulian Sturdy, the Conservative candidate for York Outer and sitting MP (Image: Supplied)

“This is a real record of delivery. I would cast caution over Labour's plans as both the funding and the classroom space will likely be needed to fix the teaching crisis caused by their plans to charge VAT on independent school fees as classroom sizes in York are set to balloon.

“The Conservatives set out a plan to deliver free nursery access and we have begun to deliver it.

“It is now time to let us finish what we have started to benefit even more families in York.”