DARLINGTON Borough Council is facing legal action over its decision to close its Kids and Co nursery service.
Both Unison, which is acting on behalf of the 37 Kids and Co staff who face losing their jobs, and a parent are seeking a Judicial Review in the High Court of the council's decision.
The union has not yet finalised its legal proceedings but the parent has already instructed a private solicitor and copies of a written notification of legal proceedings were presented to members of the Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee at a special meeting this evening (Thursday, January 31).
The notice was served after a majority of the committee voted against sending the closure decision back to cabinet for reconsideration, sparking anger from parents and Kids and Co staff in the public gallery.
The legal action is based on claims that the council’s 90-day consultation into the future of the two nurseries was flawed and that the decision to close the service at Borough Road and Northwood was made without the cabinet having vital facts and figures.
This includes the omission of any comprehensive evidence to prove there are enough nursery places in Darlington without Kids and Co.
In addition, parents and Unison representatives claim that a business plan put forward by parent and financial manager Nicola Bales, which showed that the nurseries could break even if fees were increased, was not fully considered by the cabinet.
Speaking at the scrutiny meeting, Gill Toward of Unison questioned why the council had allowed the service to run at a £212,000 annual loss when Kids and Co managers had raised their concerns in 2010 and asked for help to make the service more viable.
She accused the council of failing Kids and Co, adding: “The council has a responsibility to make sure that nursery providers are sustainable, what has happened is that there is a deficit and the council wants rid of it.”
Murray Rose, director of people services said it was not the council’s responsibility to ensure the sustainability of child care services – only that there were enough places to meet the needs of children within the borough.
The council, which needs to cut £17m from its budget by 2016/17, has seven days to respond the legal challenge.
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