Council confirms day-care closure

TWO child care facilities will definitely close after senior councillors confirmed their original decision.

Bushbabies and Chatham House day-care facilities are being axed as part of a cost-cutting measure by Hartlepool Borough Council

Labour councillor Robbie Payne and independent councillor Cath Hill took the decision earlier this summer at a joint portfolio meeting.

But it was called in by the scrutiny co-ordinating committee over concerns about the lack of consultation with parents.

The pair met yesterday to confirm their original decision and said the heavily-subsidised service – which costs £195,000 a year to run – was too big to support.

In order to bridge the deficit, parents that use the Chatham facility would have had to pay £42 a day, up from £32.20, and £44 for Bushbabies, up from £32.20.

As previously reported, the closures will mean the loss of 29 full and part-time staff but some have already secured other jobs.

At the joint portfolio meeting, councillors heard that more than 50 per cent of the children had already got places elsewhere in town.

There is currently around 1,800 spare places at child care facilities in Hartlepool.

Coun Hill, portfolio holder for children’s services, said: “We don’t like to close facilities or put people out of work.

“But to keep on paying £200,000 a year, which will probably increase, is just indefensible.”

Coun Payne, member for finance and procurement, added: “I don’t want to see children upset and have to move nursery but the harsh reality is that the government has cut the grant.

“I am content that there are excess places that can accommodate the children.”

Coun Hill praised officers for providing parents with the support to find new child care facilities.

Bushbabies is an all-year round day-care facility for youngsters aged from birth up to five, which runs from the Rossmere Sure Start Children’s Centres, in Rossmere Way.

Chatham House day-care caters children of the same age from the Chatham House Sure Start Children’s Centre.

The decision to withdraw the child care facilities will not affect either Sure Start Children’s Centres and other services will continue as normal.

Officers said parents had been sent letters telling them the facilities were not sustainable and that they were testing the market to see if there was any interest but they did not specifically say they could close.

Officers argued that if they had, then that would have led to parents removing their children before a decision had even been taken making them unviable.

Coun Payne said the original recommendation was for them to stay open and that is why there was not the “thorough consultation that there could or should have been”.

He added: “From the scrutiny aspect I do agree that the consultation was not up to standard but that is not the fault of the department.

“That is down to Coun Hill and myself.

“From a financial aspect, I support the decision.”