A POPULAR nursery in one of Bolton's most deprived areas has been earmarked for closure by Bolton Council who say they can no longer afford to subside it.

Harvey Nursery — the council's only directly run nursery — could shut at the end of the academic year under proposals just announced.

Fourteen jobs will be lost and 60 children will have to be found alternative places if plans are approved.

Harvey Nursery is based in The Harvey Children's Centre, Shaw Street.

Education bosses said they have been working for the past four years to try and make the non-profit making nursery sustainable - but say ' there is nothing there that could be cut that has not been cut'

This has included reducing baby places, increasing fees, and not charging for human resources and management costs for the space used in the centre.

But the nursery has an annual deficit of almost £68,000 which, says Bolton Council, is likely to increase with each year it stays open.

Savings of £100 million and national cuts and changes to nursery funding are being blamed.

A 30-day consultation has now been launched on the proposed closure with results taken back to Bolton Council's cabinet meeting before a final decision is made.

If the proposals go ahead, the closure would result in the reduction of 20 posts, of which six are currently vacant. The 60 children at the nursery are aged between one and four - although the nursery has stopped admitting under two-year-olds.

Deputy leader of the council, Cllr Linda Thomas, said: “The proposed closure of Harvey Nursery is as a direct result of budget pressures. The council has been subsidising the running costs for some time and it is with great sadness that we now have to consider closing it.

“Harvey Nursery is a popular, good quality nursery, so the decision to go down this route is regrettable but unavoidable. Each year we have had to find more and more savings within the council, and we are now in the position where our options are running thin. However, I must stress that we are in consultation so no final decision has been made.

“If the proposals go ahead we will make sure parents are provided with sufficient information to make an alternative choice of childcare. There are many other nurseries in the vicinity offering good provision and a number of free places and funding options for parents."

Alternative places would be sought for children and and Town Hall chiefs say they will seek to redeploy affected staff to other vacant posts within the authority or accept applications for voluntary early retirement or voluntary redundancy.

Cllr Thomas said: "No decision has been made and we do welcome ideas.

"Funding for nurseries has been cut centrally and we have tried very hard for four years but we cannot make it sustainable.

"We have tried very hard to keep it open."

Bolton is currently rolling out a scheme across the borough to ensure children are given the best start in life and ready for school by working with mums to be.

Cllr Thomas “This is why it is sad because we are passionate about early years.

"This is genuine consultation, nothing is off the table nothing is on the table."

She added that childcare 'really is not affordable in this country'.

A Bolton Council spokesman said: "There is strong evidence to show that children who benefit from early years education are more likely to achieve well in school, access higher education and have a higher salary.

"In Bolton 94 per cent of our nursery providers are good or better. We know there are sufficient places for all the children who currently attend this nursery."

The Harvey Early Years Centre was registered in October 2006 but there has been a nursery there for many years before. If it closes, it will mark the end of an era - when the local authorities used to provide and run a number of early years settings.