16 Jan 2019, Meredith Jones Russell
In a letter to Salford City mayor Paul Dennett, the Save Our Salford Nurseries campaign expressed concern that ‘lengthy’ consultation processes have had ‘significant impact’ on staff and services and led to operational problems.
All five council-run day nurseries in Salford have been under threat of closure since February 2018 as the council looks to plug an early years services budget gap of £1.75 million.
The mayor has agreed to extend council funding for the nurseries until September 2019, but cited funding cuts and changes to the Dedicated Schools Grant as reasons he could not commit to securing their future beyond this.
The nurseries, all of which are rated Outstanding by Ofsted, were put out to tender last month.
The Save Our Salford Nurseries campaign submitted a series of questions to the council regarding the tender, including whether there would be any attempt to change existing structure, staffing, pay and terms and conditions for staff.
The council said it could not guarantee no changes would be made.
In the letter to the mayor, campaigners said, ‘We are concerned that the lengthy consultation processes undertaken in the last 10 months have had a significant impact on the staff and service.
‘Although the guarantee made in April 2018 of funding until September 2019 was welcome, the slow progress in securing the nurseries long term future has led to a number of operational problems.’
‘Only approximately 50 per cent of the permanent qualified staff now remain and there is a heavy reliance on agency and temporarily contracted staff which is putting the “Outstanding” service at risk.
‘Furthermore, the failure within the Q&As to guarantee the existing staffing structure by any private provider puts the quality of service at risk as well as the future pay, terms and conditions of staff.’
Campaigners appealed to the mayor to consider continued local authority funding, as privatisation would lead to ‘problems of cost, delivery and long term viability’.
The Salford Save Our Nurseries campaign has previously included a 1,000-strong march through the city, a meeting with MPs in Westminster and a discussion with children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi.
Campaigners have invited the mayor to their next meeting on 31 January. The deputy mayor and an executive member of the council have already confirmed their attendance.