Nurseries in debt, claim Tories

Coun Tony Williams
Coun Tony Williams
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Calls have been made for a review into the way council nurseries are run – amid claims they are losing money.

Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Conservative group on Blackpool Council, says he has been handed figures which show nine of the town’s 14 maintained nurseries ran at a loss in the last financial year.

The deficit totals nearly £200,000, it is claimed in the figures. Two nurseries, neither of which have been named, made losses of £56,406 and £40,492 respectively, it is claimed.

But education chiefs today said the figures were unreliable.

Coun Williams says the deficits are being met using cash meant for primary school education.

He said: “The figures I have recently been given indicate these nurseries show significant losses over the last 12 months.

“The shortfall in these financial results is being met from the supporter primary schools’ main budgets. That means around £200,000 intended for our young children’s education and support is not being delivered where it should be and hundreds of primary school pupils are missing out.”

Coun Williams says it would make more sense for nursery education to be carried out by the private sector.

Parents who qualify for free nursery places, paid for by the Government, can choose to send their child either to a council nursery or a private kindergarten.

But Blackpool Council said the figures seen by Coun Williams had not been properly audited yet and so may be misleading.

It also said it was up to individual primary schools whether they wished to use any of their funding to support nursery education.

Coun Ivan Taylor, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “It is to be expected the leader of the Conservative Group wishes to see all nursery provision in the hands of the private sector.

“Schools are very well aware of the importance of pre-school provision to a child’s development and attainment in later years.

“If they choose to support their nursery units that’s a matter for them.”

Richard Rendell, chairman of governors at Langdale Free School in Blackpool, represents private, voluntary and independent nurseries on the council’s strategic group which looks at early years education. He said the figures were supplied by the council to members of the group.

Mr Rendell said: “It is not a fair playing field for private nurseries which have to operate at a profit and are subject to the same Ofsted inspections, if maintained nurseries are being subsidised by primary schools. That money should be being spent on education for five to 11-year-olds.”

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