Birmingham's council nurseries up for review

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Birmingham City Council is reviewing the future of its nurseries, after the GMB union raised concerns at the prospect of the closure of all 14 of the city’s council-run settings.

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Following talks with GMB, a revised report will go forward at a cabinet committee meeting today (12 December) with additional options for consultation.

GMB has said this will allow each of the 14 community nurseries in Birmingham to be considered individually and judged on a case by case basis.

The new options for consultation, as outlined by the report, will be:

  • continuing to operate any nurseries that are financially self-sustaining and closing the remaining nurseries;
  • continuing to operate any nursery that is situated within an area of need for sufficiency where an alternative provider to the council cannot be identified, and close the remaining nurseries where they are either not required or there is an appetite for the childcare market to deliver;
  • closing all nurseries and releasing the buildings for the childcare market to continue provision of the service and generate a rental income.

The 14 nurseries currently provide places for 600 children and employ 120 people.

The cabinet report estimates closures would lead to 120 staff redundancies, incurring redundancy costs of £310,000 for 12 of the nurseries. Staff at the remaining two nurseries are employed by third sector providers.

The council said the deficit for the nurseries over the last three years peaked at £744,989 in 2014-15, was £578,813 in 2015-16, and £638,719 in 2016-17.

The council also suggested that as some of the nurseries are linked to children’s centres, there would be a potential capital claw back of £2.167m.

The council is carrying out a major reorganisation of children’s health and well-being services, which will see children’s centres cut from 29 to 18.

Gill Ogilvie, regional officer of GMB, said, ‘These options will look at sustainability and locality provision as well as the options for closures.

‘This gives us the space to fully explore each and every nursery and a business case for keeping them open.

‘GMB would like to thanks all the parents and staff who applies pressure to the council that has resulted in these changes.

‘We have won the first battle in the fight to save our nurseries – but there is still a lot more work to be done.’

Councillor Carl Rice, cabinet member for children, families and schools, said, ‘We don’t want to close our council-run nurseries but unfortunately we simply can’t afford to maintain the subsidy in the current financial climate.

‘Our nurseries don’t have a budget, and there are not enough children at them to cover costs, so we have always had to subsidise them. In the last three years they have had financial support of between approx. half and three-quarters of a million pounds each year. The expected deficit next year is £0.75m. 

‘I totally understand parents’ concerns but this consultation is a chance for head teachers, parents and local representatives to help us find local solutions to ensure they are financially sustainable going forward.’

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