Why should parents be forced to use council nursery, demands angry parent

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A CONTROVERSIAL cost-cutting measure is ‘forcing’ parents to use council nurseries, a concerned parent has claimed.

Every child, aged three and four, is entitled to 12.5 hours a week at a nursery during term time.

East Dunbartonshire Council announced in October that it would not be funding any more places at partner – private and voluntary – nurseries for the school year.

Instead, parents are being offered places at authority-run facilities – generating business and saving cash for the council.

One Bishopbriggs dad who contacted the Herald said he was “appalled” at the decision.

He said: “As parents, we all understand that these are perilous financial times, but local private nurseries provide a vital service to the community.

“This change of tack by the council will have severe financial implications for such businesses.”

He suggested that funding be paid to parents as vouchers to be redeemed at the nursery of their choice. Scottish Government funding provided to the council for pre-school education is not ring-fenced, meaning it can be used for other purposes if required.

Partner nurseries were asked to tender for a set number of free places for this school year – which were duly allocated.

That process is set to be repeated next year, with nurseries being invited to tender again to provide free places.

A report into the issue of pre-school places was presented at a meeting of the education committee last week.

The report confirms the tendering process will proceed and reveals children not registered by July 31 will be given a pre-school place at a council nursery – not a partnership nursery.

A council spokesperson said: “We are about to begin the procurement process to secure private and voluntary nursery places for 2012-2015 and, as part of this year’s budget consultation with local residents, we will continue to review private and voluntary nursery/local authority nursery provision.”

She added: “This year the amount of money from the budget allocated for partnership centres was £1,316,845. The number of commissioned places at September 2011 was 1,059 compared to a total number of 1,038 last year for the full year.

“The situation for most families this year has therefore been broadly similar to that of previous years.

“Although there have been one or two placement difficulties since then, largely because some placement requests were received after the set number of commissioned places had already been allocated, in the main these have been resolved amicably.”