Parents launch battle to save Harrogate playgroup

Denise Bowden-Falvey (far right) with fellow child minders, mums and youngsters ouside Bilton Youth Club. (1506162AM1)
Denise Bowden-Falvey (far right) with fellow child minders, mums and youngsters ouside Bilton Youth Club. (1506162AM1)

Parents have launched a campaign to save a Harrogate playgroup that is at risk of being axed due to rising costs.

Tabbies Toddler Group has been held at Bilton Youth Centre every Thursday morning during term time for the past three years.

But there are fears it may be forced to close as a result of a dip in attendance numbers and a hike in rent.

Childminder Denise Bowden-Falvey, who runs the group with three others, said: “I’ve tried to do everything I can think of to get more members because the rent keeps going up and up. When we first started doing it, it cost £11 to rent the room for two hours but now it is £28.50 which is a hell of a rise. I’m at a loss now as to where to go.”

The playgroup currently charges £2 per parent and child and 50p extra for any other children. The money goes into a pot which pays for activities and refreshments.

However sometimes the group barely breaks even and the funds are running out.

Ms Bowden-Falvey said: “We don’t take any money out of it ourselves. There’s a little bit of money left in the bank however our insurance is due in October.

“We are loathe to close so we are launching a campaign to keep it open. We are looking at trying to get funding and we want to attract more members. We just need enough to keep us going. We’re not in it to make a profit.”

Backing the campaign is mum Laura Morrison, who started taking her two-year-old twins to the sessions when her group at the Bilton Children’s Centre was cancelled due to funding cuts.

She said: “I found this nice little group and when I found out they might not be able to continue due to costs I thought I can’t go through this again.

“A lot of parents depend on it to get them out of the house. It’s a nice group for the kids and a nice way for parents to get together. I want to help save it because it’s like a breath of fresh air.”

Rev Simon Dowson, chairman of the Bilton Youth Centre Management Committee, which sets the rent for the centre, urged the group to get in touch to discuss the issue.

He said: “I would encourage them to come and talk to us because obviously we are not hard-hearted and inflexible. I hope we will be able to work something out.”

Meanwhile North Yorkshire County Council’s Stronger Communities team has offered to meet with the group and discuss their concerns.

County Coun David Chance, Executive Member for Stronger Communities, said: “We recognise that this is an important service to the community and helps to develop early socialisation and opportunities for creative play for toddlers in the area. We will look into ways to support the group so that their service can carry on into the future.”