‘Nurseries will not be closing down’

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FIVE nurseries threatened with closure will not be shut down, the leader of Milton Keynes Council has vowed.

However, in a move that could save £217,000, the council has announced it will no longer be responsible for nursery provision.

Day nurseries which faced the axe included Wolverton, Little Chestnuts, Fledglings, Westcroft, and Russell Street, but council leader Andrew Geary was quick to play down the fear of privatisation or outright closure.

Councillor Geary, said: “Axing services is not on this council’s agenda. We are committed to the continuing of nurseries as they are an important service, but they are not what we would consider a core function.

“And this is not to say nurseries will lose staff or the buildings they are in, they will just be managed by someone else. It is hoped that the transitions can be as seamless as possible so that it is business as usual for those involved.”

The council is now urging any interested parties to put their offers together and propose them to the council. Each nursery will then be treated as an individual project.

Mr Geary added: “We already have firm offers in place for a number of the nurseries and they are seriously being considered. If a proposal is of good quality then people from the voluntary sector or a parish council can take over and run them.

“Each offer will be assessed by a professional panel and if they are strong enough we could make a decision before the December or January deadline.”

Council run nurseries were set up 25 years ago to fill a void, a role Mr Geary said, the council had successfully fulfilled. However, he explained the council now faced a tough challenge in eradicating a £19.1 million deficit by the end of the financial year.

The decision to invite tenders to take on running of the nurseries was announced at a cabinet meeting of the council last Tuesday. It appeared to go down well with some parents with many making their feelings known to Mr Geary at the end of the meeting.

He said: “It was so refreshing to hear parents coming up to me at the end of the meeting and praising the council’s decision.”

Other parents had however complained about the privatisation of day nursery provision but Mr Geary said that the term privatisation was an ‘over-simplification’ of what will actually be happening.

He said: “If you look at the evidence from around the city, council-run nurseries are not the cheapest. There are many nurseries that offer the same good level of provision cheaper than we do.”

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