Birmingham council nurseries to be handed over to PVI providers

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All 14 of Birmingham’s council-run nurseries are to be privatised.

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A report due to go before Birmingham City Council cabinet next week (11 December) will propose the transfer of all the council’s remaining day nurseries to other public bodies and the PVI sector, including social enterprises, following a public consultation.

The decision follows the withdrawal of a proposal by trade union GMB to develop a social enterprise model to run the nurseries.

GMB said the model and associated costs are not now viable.

Councillor Kate Booth, cabinet member for children’s wellbeing, said, ‘As a city council we have a duty to ensure there are enough nursery places available in the right locations across the city.

‘There are currently lots of vacancies in nursery settings in all of the areas where our 14 council-run nurseries operate, and we know through discussions with other providers there is a great deal of interest in taking over these nurseries.

‘When GMB proposed looking at their own social enterprise arrangement it was only right that we collectively gave this some serious thought, but we now agree it is not a viable option and the best thing would be to ensure we give external social enterprises due consideration when we look to transfer them.’

Gill Ogilvie, GMB regional organiser, said, ‘These nurseries are vital services which should be kept in the public sector.

‘But it’s now clear the cuts inflicted on Birmingham City Council have been so brutal there is no way the council can continue the service as it currently stands. We had hoped that the council would look to allocate funding from other areas, but this has not happened.

‘We now implore the Government to properly halt its failed austerity project and give Birmingham the cash need to look after our second city’s children.’

The council said that the 14 council-run nurseries make up 4 per cent of day nursery provision in Birmingham and that there are 1,379 childcare settings in total.

The council said the total deficit from the nurseries last year was more than £712,000, with none of the settings breaking even.

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) said, ‘The situation in Birmingham is another example of how challenging it is in the current environment to run nurseries irrespective of which sector they are in. This sends a clear message to Government that its childcare policy is chronically underfunded. Providers are not being paid enough to even cover delivery costs.

‘Since 2016, the hourly rate paid to providers in the Birmingham area, set by central government for all three and four year old children, has dropped by 6 per cent. This is against a backdrop of rising staff costs, inflation and the new pension requirements.

‘It is important that the council is looking for alternative options in order to keep these nurseries running. Research shows that giving children high quality early years education is the best way for them to reach their full potential and reduce the inequality gap.

‘It’s very difficult for any provider to be able to make this work, given the additional business costs they will face and the poor funding rate.’

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