Cash cuts to hit working families

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MILTON Keynes Council has drawn up secret plans to close or merge every one of its day nurseries in order to save cash.

The proposal, which will affect hundreds of working families, has been discussed by councillors for months.

But it only came to light on Tuesday, when each parent was handed a letter stating their child’s nursery was under ‘review’.

The Citizen has acquired Cabinet documents which outline precise proposals for all eight of the popular nurseries.

Those facing complete closure are Fledglings at Kents Hill, Westcroft nursery, Little Chestnuts at Bletchley and Wolverton day nursery.

One of the four, probably Wolverton, could be retained though to cater for “vulnerable families,” states the report.

Meanwhile, there are plans to merge Kingston’s day nursery with the Bridges children’s centre, Playzone with Hedgerows centre on Netherfield and the historic Russell Street nursery in Stony Stratford with Rowans on Fuller Slade.

Russell Street parents have already been fighting for weeks to keep their nursery open.

But parents with children at the other six nurseries were unaware the budget bombshell was about to drop on them too.

“I’m in shock,” said Clare Tucker, whose baby daughter Millie goes to Westcroft. “This nursery has been going for 16 years.

“My older daughter came here too and it’s the only place I trust to look after Millie.

“Without this day nursery I simply could not work. I know the council has to save cash but why target small children and working mums?”

The council document shows how closing nurseries could actually cost money at first.

Axing Westcroft, for example, would save £9,845 a year.

But it would cost the council £59,850 in redundancy payments for the staff.

If all the proposals go ahead the council would save £216,000 a year – and spend £192,000 on redundancy.

Though the council has no legal requirement to provide nurseries, it has a duty under the Childcare Act to ensure the demand for child places is met.

The report states: ‘Recent surveys have shown there is sufficient provision in the private, voluntary and independent sector to meet the current childcare demand.’

Already parents have attacked this statement as “rubbish” and vowed to fight to keep their nurseries open.

The council has promised a consultation period and said no changes will take place for at least six months.

> Puddles Pre School fights eviction, page 3.