Darlington Borough Council is aiming to cut its overall budget by £22m over four years as it gets to grips with reductions to its funding from central Government.
The early years inclusion team is one area that could be scaled back, with the number of staff reduced from 11 to three. The proposals were discussed at a council-run public consultation on 16 November.
Darlington said that reducing the size of the inclusion team, which would save the council £60,000, would enable it to extend the service from term-time to 52 weeks a year and that training could be offered to staff from other nurseries.
But parents at the meeting said that they would be presenting a petition against the cuts.
Karen Loughlin, Unison regional officer for the north-east, said, 'For the first time, the council is talking about cuts in the services they deliver rather than about being more cost-effective. It looks as if the most needy and vulnerable are going to be directly affected by these cuts, which are the result of the Comprehensive Spending Review. We have asked the council for a detailed report identifying what these cuts will mean in terms of jobs and services.'
A council spokesperson said, 'Darlington needs to reduce its annual spending bill by £22m over the next four years, and every service is under review. Currently, there are only a limited number of venues that provide the early years inclusion service. The proposal is to reduce the number of directly employed specialist staff who currently work to a limited number of working hours, and train staff throughout our children's care network so more people can access similar service and support at times to suit them. However, this is only a proposal and no decisions have been taken. We are encouraging feedback on all budget proposals before a final budget is approved in March 2011.'