Little Hulton Day Nursery, Winton Day Nursery, Barton Moss Day Nursery, Belvedere Day Nursery and Higher Broughton Day Nursery, which provide 327 places for children and employ 106 members of staff between them, all face closure as Salford City Council looks to plug a combined early years services budget gap of £1.75m.
The council is to run a formal 90-day consultation from 26 February until 28 May 2018, and the authority has said it would welcome proposals for solutions from both the voluntary and private sectors.
In a letter to parents, the council said it was ‘committed to supporting anyone who has alternative, affordable proposals to keep the nurseries open.’
However, it said if no solution is found, the five nurseries will close by 3 September 2018.
Lisa Stone, the council’s lead member for children’s services, said the situation was a ‘direct result’ of government changes to the use of the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) which have limited the amount of three- and four-year-old funding Salford City Council can retain to pay for delivering early years services.
She said, ‘With a really heavy heart we have very reluctantly put forward a proposal to review the future of the five excellent local authority run nurseries we have in the city, after facing a potential hole in the budget of £1.75m.
‘The nurseries cost £3m to run but we only receive £1.5m in income from charges. The Government changes mean we can no longer afford to subsidise the running costs of the five nurseries in the city by £1.5m.’
Ms Stone added, ‘All five nurseries are classed as outstanding by Ofsted and are run by passionate, committed and dedicated workers. We are devastated to be forced into a position of having to consider closure due to yet more Government changes to local authority budgets.
‘In this year’s council budget we are already putting another £4.5 million into children’s services just to meet rising demands at a time when the Government continues to cut Salford’s budget. There is an urgent national need to address the funding crisis in children’s social care and ensure local councils are fairly funded and we are working hard with neighbouring authorities to raise this issue.’
Paul Dennett, city mayor of Salford, has written to the Government to raise the issue of the impact of funding changes on Salford, in which he says many of the city’s services are ‘literally at breaking point.’
Salford City UNISON, which represents the staff of the five nurseries, has called a public meeting on Saturday 17 February to discuss what can be done to protect the settings.
Ameen Hadi, treasurer of Salford City UNISON, said, ‘We are extremely disappointed that Salford City Council has announced, out of the blue, their wish to begin a consultation on the potential closure of all five council nurseries.
‘We understand that due to Government cuts to school funding this has caused a deficit of £1.75m. We call on the Mayor, councillors and our local MPs to fight with the community and trade unions to retain our services.’
An online petition to save the nurseries has so far received 3,812 signatures.