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Nursery closure decision under scrutiny
A CONTROVERSIAL decision by Darlington Borough Council to close two nurseries will be examined by a scrutiny committee on Thursday.
Cabinet members voted to close the Kids and Co nurseries on Borough Road and Northwood after a 90-day consultation stated they were losing £212,000 annually and the council could no longer afford to subsidise the service.
Parents and Unison representatives reacted angrily, accusing the council of not fully exploring other options before making up their minds, and this led to the decision being “called in” by Councillor Joe Kelley, backed by councillors Linda Hughes and Paul Crudass.
In a letter to the Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee, Coun Kelley said that cabinet members had based their decision to close the service on “inadequate and incomplete advice.”
He also stated that the anticipated £170,000 redundancy costs combined with the £350,000 spent when the service relocated to Borough Road in 2009 did not represent efficient or appropriate use of public money.
Coun Kelley said: “It is a cross-party issue.
“Myself and some other members of the scrutiny committee feel that it has not had a proper hearing and it shouldn’t have gone to cabinet before scrutiny had looked at it.”
Coun Kelley’s other complaints about the decision-making process included a lack of transparency and a failure by cabinet members to explain why they rejected representations made by parents and Unison representatives.
“We are very keen to extend the closure decision until August, that is what we are going to try and urge the chair of the scrutiny committee to do, and the rest of the committee to do, and go forward with that,” he said.
“If the scrutiny committee doesn’t make that decision, then the cabinet’s decision will stand.”
A spokeswoman for Darlington Council confirmed that if the scrutiny committee is still concerned about the decision after its meeting on Thursday, the issue may be referred back to the cabinet for reconsideration.
In this case the committee would have to set out its concerns, what it expects cabinet to reconsider and what alternatives it recommends.
Cabinet members must then reconsider the issue within 20 days.