Decision day for nurseries facing private sector future

COUNCIL chiefs in Wakefield will meet next week to decide whether to transfer some of its nurseries to the private or independent sectors to save money.

The future of the area's five remaining neighbourhood nurseries will be discussed by members of Wakefield Council's Cabinet committee next week.

Senior councillors will be asked to consider transferring St Swithun's in Eastmoor, Oakhill, Featherstone and Castleford's Airedale nursery to either the voluntary or private sector.

The future of Pomfret and The Castle nurseries in Pontefract and Sandal remains uncertain but the local authority says it is still exploring options.

A report to members says: "Due to a high number of factors and in particular high staffing costs and small numbers of children, the local authority neighbourhood nurseries have never achieved sustainability.

"The neighbourhood nurseries have continued to be in a deficit position and although a number of efficiency savings have been made, the deficit position continues to increase."

The nurseries were originally set up under the previous Government as part of a drive to increase the number of childcare places available in areas of deprivation. Funding was given to help the start up of the nurseries with the aim that they would become fully sustainable once the funding ended.

However the scheme had struggled and because of this the council has already had to close two of the nurseries it runs, at Kinsley and Agbrigg/Belle Vue.

Wakefield Council's Cabinet member for children and young people, Pat Garbutt, said: "We obviously want to avoid any further closures and so have explored alternative ways to ensure nursery provision continues at the remaining five nurseries at St Swithun's, Oakhill, Airedale, Pomfret and The Castle.

"Proposals have been made for St Swithun's, Oakhill and Airedale to transfer to the voluntary, independent or private sector and while we are still exploring alternatives for Pomfret and The Castle, we are hopeful that this can be achieved for all the neighbourhood nurseries."

The proposals will be considered by members of the council's Cabinet committee when it meets on January 18.