THE future of six Wirral day nurseries will be up for debate tonight when the authority’s ruling cabinet meets.
Nurseries in Liscard, Birkenhead, Claughton and Rock Ferry could be taken over by neighbouring schools if plans set to save £772,000 a year are approved.
But that would mean they would only operate during term time and normal school hours, meaning parents would need to make alternative arrangements.
In a report to tonight’s meeting, the authority admits that New Brighton’s Day Nursery is the only one to have received a confirmed offer from outside organisations.
Discussions are still ongoing over the future of Miriam Place day nursery, based at Bidston St James Centre, who have “expressed a tentative expression of interest” in developing a social, not commercial model for the two, three and four year old education on offer”.
Councillor Tony Smith, Wirral’s cabinet member for children and family services, said: “As there is already provision across the private, voluntary and independent sectors, and at this time of considerable pressure on budgets, we as a Council are proposing to stop delivering this service.
“We will support any family affected by working with them to manage the transition to another provider. This will include drawing up individual plans in partnership with each parent or carer, and preparing contingencies to enable us to provide support if we need to.
“Staff affected have been briefed and we are asking schools to ring fence posts of a similar nature for those whose jobs are at risk.”
Although parents pay for their children to use the council’s nursery service, it still requires a £772,000 a year subsidy from the council.
The plans, agreed last year as part of the council’s budget options, will enable that money to be saved by removing the need for the council to subsidise the service.
The nurseries are New Brighton Day Nursery, Honey Bees Day Nursery, Reach High Day Nursery, Miriam Place, Windmill Day Nursery and Little Ferries Day Nursery.
Last June, the council’s ruling cabinet approved plans to outsource day nursery provision to mitigate against budget cuts.
The council asked interested providers to offer the service for a five year period but of the 65 suppliers who registered an interest, only two completed applications were submitted.
Of those, only the application to run New Brighton Day Nursery, developed by staff, was taken forward.
If this move is endorsed by the cabinet on June 19, a target date for transfer for that nursery has been set for September 1, 2014.
The day nursery service delivered by the council was originally supported by grant funding made available through the national Neighbourhood Nursery Initiative and Surestart.
Neither of those funding streams remain available today, leaving a shortfall of £722,000 to be met by the council.
Local authorities’ responsibilities for childcare has also changed, from ensuring childcare is available, to one of offering a brokering service to support families to find and secure childcare.
Families in receipt of government funding for two, three and four year old children will still continue to be able to access nursery provision elsewhere in the borough, but instead of accessing council-run nurseries, those affected will be given support instead to find alternative providers in local schools, or in the private, voluntary and independent sector.
Wirral’s ruling cabinet will discuss the move at Wallasey Town Hall at 6.15pm today, Thursday.