Following consultation around the future of childcare provision in the borough, North Tyneside Council has set out its latest proposals.
At a meeting of Cabinet last night (Wednesday 27) a clear set of priorities for the delivery of all services and draft budget proposals to save almost £16 million were agreed. The Council has been forced to find these savings due to massive government cuts in funding and cost pressures, including from increased demand on its most expensive services.
Included amongst the proposals are changes to the way in which childcare services are to be provided in future.
Elected Mayor Norma Redfearn said: “Due to enormous government cuts in funding, the council must save almost £56million over the next three years. This has meant that we have had to look carefully at every single service which the Council currently provides.
“I am very clear that our approach is not to simply make sweeping cuts across the board but to prioritise and target resources where it is needed most. Inevitably this has meant that we have had to make some very difficult choices and decisions. None of these decisions have been taken lightly.
“I understand that some residents are concerned about the childcare proposals and I want to reassure parents and carers that there is an excellent range of non Council provision across the borough. I can also reassure them that we will work with them to make sure that they have secured suitable alternative places for their children where this is needed.
She added: “Local authorities do not have a statutory duty to directly provide childcare. Our duty is to ensure that there is sufficient provision in the borough.
“Across North Tyneside we currently have excellent formal childcare provision to meet the needs of parents of children who currently, or wish to, work, study or undertake training. This is provided through approximately: 27 independent private sector daycare nurseries, 162 childminders, 24 playgroups, two private sector out of school clubs, as well as a number of nurseries and out of schools clubs provided by schools. Alongside these the council currently directly provides childcare provision in six daycare nursery settings.”
Currently the six non-statutory daycare nursery settings provided by the Council cost local taxpayers £1.12 million to run each year.
As part of its plans to save almost £16 million from its annual budget, Cabinet have confirmed proposed changes to its childcare provision at four settings:
- at Battle Hill and Denbigh in Howdon management of the daycare nursery will move to local schools. Children will continue to attend as they do now
- at Wallsend and Shiremoor the childcare in council nursery settings will close.
Parents and carers will be supported to find alternative childcare to suit their needs. This will include from the excellent range of high quality nursery settings in those areas
Childcare provision at Riverside in North Shields and Oaktrees in North Shields will be reviewed over the next year to ensure that there is adequate alternative provision before transferring direct delivery of childcare.
Elected Mayor Norma Redfearn explained: “Childcare in the borough has changed in recent years and schools are now playing an increasing role in delivering formal childcare in nursery settings, with extremely successful recent examples in both Killingworth and Wideopen. More and more independent childcare providers are also choosing to open here – meaning we now have a vibrant, diverse, flexible and high-quality formal childcare sector to meet the needs of parents and carers.
“Childcare provision, regardless of how it is provided, is all subject to the same quality checks by Ofsted. The vast majority of current provision, including all of the nursery settings, is currently rated by Ofsted as either Outstanding or Good.
“Our proposals will still ensure that all of our children across the borough continue to have access to the best possible quality of childcare as part of our priority to give everyone the best possible start in life.”
Elected Mayor Norma Redfearn emphasised: “These are still proposals. The council is due to debate the issue on 4 February and will not make any final decision until March 2016.”
The council will consider a petition that has been received around the childcare proposals at its meeting on 4 February.