Emotions run high as council opts to close Kids and Co nurseries in Darlington (From The Advertiser Series)
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Emotions run high as council opts to close Kids and Co nurseries in Darlington
EMOTIONS ran high as campaigners packed a meeting to hear councillors vote to close the Kids and Co nursery service.
Coun Cyndi Hughes fought back tears as she told Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet meeting it was “with a heavy heart” that she recommended the closure of the Kids and Co service at Northwood and Borough Road following a 90-day consultation into its future.
The council has to find savings of £17m over the next five years and the consultation report stated that Kids and Co is running at an annual loss of £212,000 when there are enough nursery places in the town without the 180 places it offers.
Coun Hughes blamed “savage” Government cuts for forcing the council into having to make difficult budget decisions.
Unison representatives and parents made passionate pleas for the decision to be deferred to allow more time to explore alternative options.
Parent, Nicola Bales, suggested that steps such as increasing fees paid by parents and merging the sites into one could make the service viable.
“Closing these services should be a last resort,” she said.
Council leader Bill Dixon painted a bleak picture of the state of council subsidised facilities and said that in the near future it would be unlikely that the authority would be in a position to fund any non- statutory services.
He said: “This isn’t why I got into local government, to do things like this, it was never my desire, I would rather open services than close them.”
Dawn Richardson, manager of the Borough Road Kids and Co, pointed out that she warned the council three years ago that revisions needed to be made keep the service financially viable, but said she did not receive any support.
Sarah Walker, who spearheaded the Save Kids and Co campaign group, said she was “devastated” by the decision, while another parent, Gavin Dobson, said that it was “morally wrong” to close the nurseries.
The Kids and Co Flexi Childcare Service will close immediately after the required period of notice for staff, while both Kids and Co sites will stay open until the end of the spring term for children under three, and close completely in August to coincide with older children leaving to start primary school.
A total of 43 jobs will be lost, costing the council £171,952 in redundancies.