Councillors on a Bath and North East Somerset scrutiny panel have dismissed a call-in to review a decision to close two Council-run nurseries.
Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Cabinet Member for Children & Young People, Cllr Paul May, today welcomed the fact that the panel of scrutiny councillors decided to support his original decision over the future the nurseries.
The decision by the panel to dismiss the ‘call-in’ means that the Council will cease operating two loss-making Council-run nurseries at St Nicholas Primary School in Radstock and at St Martins Garden School in Bath.
The Council had taken the decision to cease operating the nurseries from this July for two main reasons:
- Firstly, both nurseries have been operating at a loss for a number of years, resulting in additional pressure on the Council’s Children’s Services budget; and
- Secondly, it is believed independent and private nurseries and childcare will be able to provide sufficient childcare provision in the two areas without the Council needing to step-in.
The Council has a duty to ensure there is sufficient childcare available for working parents, but is not expected to be the direct provider of childcare unless absolutely necessary.
Cabinet Member for Children & Young People, Councillor Paul May (Conservative Publow Whitchurch), said: “The decision on whether the Council should step-back from directly running nursery provision in a local area is never one that is taken lightly.
“However, as the cabinet member I have a duty to ensure our services both meet out statutory duties and operate effectively within the available budget. I therefore welcome the panel’s decision to dismiss the call-in.
“When it comes to nursery provision, the Council has a duty to ensure there are sufficient childcare places available for working parents – but the Council is not expected to be the direct provider of childcare and is not the best provider to run such services efficiently. These two nurseries have been running at a loss for a number of years, and with a robust and growing independent sector in the local childcare market it was felt that the time is right for the Council to step back from directly running these nurseries.”
Councillor May added: "This is a service where the independent childcare sector can and will come in to meet local needs and is not one which needs to rely on the Council as a provider. Given this, it would not be appropriate for us to continue spending tax-payers’ money to keep loss-making nurseries open when the independent sector can offer suitable childcare provision. To continue doing so would also mean the Council taking business away from other independent childcare providers.
“The Council cannot sustain a position of subsidising two loss-making nurseries when there are alternative providers in those areas who could offer sufficient capacity. We have developed with the private sector excellent local provision in the area which are monitored by Ofsted with good and excellent ratings. We will continue to work with the childcare sector to promote alternative providers to create capacity in these areas as needed."