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Local authority daycare nursery

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Local authority daycare nursery

Postby kvothe » Mon Feb 15, 2016 12:17 pm

My youngest daughter attends a daycare centre. The centre is run by the local authority, and parents pay market rate fees for their child to attend in accordance with the length of their stay. The nursery is physically located within the grounds of a primary school, and is administered by that school (fees are paid to the school bank account, and the head of the school is responsible for handling complaints etc), although the two organisations are distinct in that attendance at the former does not guarantee a place at the latter. A contract is signed each year which sets fees and dictates operating processes etc, within which is enshrined the right by the nursery to vary contract terms and conditions having given a suitable period of notice.

A week or so ago, all parents received a letter co-signed by the head of school and nursery manager stating that from a future point in time, changes will be made, together with a new contract for signature. Fees will increase, the terms of payment will change (from in arrears to in advance), opening hours will shorten, and the provison of care for children under the age of two (which requires higher staffing ratios) will cease completely. The rationale provided states "our nursery has been incurring losses over the last few years and as it is a publicly owned provision it is not allowed to run on a negative budget" and "the local authority in conjunction with the school governing body have explored ways in which we can move forward" and "our decision reflects the needs of the local community in this current climate".

Naturally some parents have expressed chagrin at the changes.

Whilst I understand that the right to vary a contract exists, and that parents have a right to vote with their feet and move elsewhere, I am curious as to the underlying legal process. Should parents have been consulted prior to or as part of the decision making process given that public services are being cut and in the case of children under two, excluded altogether? Is there a right to question the rationale behind the decision - if parents believe that poor management rather than social economics is to blame? Is there a right to view any documents which relate to those meetings held by the school board and the local authority?

Many thanks in advance for any comments.
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Re: Local authority daycare nursery

Postby atticus » Mon Feb 15, 2016 12:43 pm

You have pretty much described the process. If this is followed through, notice of termination will be given to any parents who do not sign and return the new contract.
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Re: Local authority daycare nursery

Postby dls » Tue Feb 16, 2016 10:16 am

I suspect that you do not have one contract, but rather a series of contracts - probably by the term. As each contract comes to an end, another starts, but the new one is on the terms then acceptable to both parties.

They simply say that they are ready to offer a new contract only on certain terms. It is not quite changing the terms of the contract.

The freedom of information act allows you to obtain all sorts of information, probbaly what you want, but I doubt it will make a difference.
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Re: Local authority daycare nursery

Postby kvothe » Tue Feb 16, 2016 10:52 am

DLS, atticus

Thanks for your responses.

Things have moved forward somewhat in that there is now a meeting scheduled for parents to discuss their concerns. I have had emails from the chair of the nursery group from the school board, my local councillor, and also a representative from the local authority in response to my request for information, all stating that they will give considered responses in due course.

Let us hope that transparency emerges.

The meeting is set for the 24th. I will update thereafter.
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Re: Local authority daycare nursery

Postby dls » Tue Feb 16, 2016 11:32 am

Imagine that they had been as completely non-transparent as you can imagine.

Would it make any difference to the situation in contract? Sorry, but no.

They may have duties which govern the way they make these decisions, but that does not directly affect their right, and probable need, to make decisions.
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Re: Local authority daycare nursery

Postby diy » Tue Feb 16, 2016 11:35 am

If all or most customers are unwilling to accept the new terms then the business probably isn't viable, so you have some collective bargaining power if you mobilise it.
My suggestions are not legal advice
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Re: Local authority daycare nursery

Postby atticus » Tue Feb 16, 2016 12:08 pm

"If" being the operative word in that last post. These parents, the OP included, need day care places for their little cherubs. diy's idea may work if parents are able to threaten to remove their kids.

Can I just say that my firm, when told by a client that it can get the work done cheaper elsewhere, is likely to call that client's bluff.
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Re: Local authority daycare nursery

Postby dls » Tue Feb 16, 2016 2:31 pm

I suspect that the LA would only be too happy to close it entirely.

It is a service which fulfils a genuine need, but you would need to see a clear legal obligation to fulfil that need before they would feel any real non-political reluctance to close it.
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Re: Local authority daycare nursery

Postby kvothe » Wed Feb 17, 2016 9:44 am

The council representative attending our meeting is head of audit services from an external council, who specialise in giving advice to council operations (schools, leisure facilities etc). The chair of the nursery committee is a chartered accountant. Their stated aim is to try and fill the spaces available with children who qualify for the 'free' 15 hours slots, thus guaranteeing an income which match the operating costs. It may be their wish not to have clients like me.

I think what disappoints me most is the lack of introspection, the blaming of everyone but themselves for the situation. It competes locally with several other private nurseries, but has distinct advantages - no 'profit' motivation, no business taxation to pay, purpose built building, probably no rent or rates, economies of scale for food and supplies because of the school. And as a parent, these things act as positives when considering establishments. The childcare staff are excellent. In short, not many negatives at all, and it would be a shame if it shut.

I do wonder whether anyone has looked at those responsible for day to day operations.

From reading, it looks as though council decisions are generally only overturned if there is found to be an abuse of process. Of which, consultation with affected parties might be part. There was none here of course, and it might not be even necessary or relevant.

I am mindful of that West Wing episode where Toby gets sent to address a room of protesting malcontents, and spends his time talking to the police officer in situ rather than the baying mob. I think at some point he stands at his microphone and tells them they might be effective if they could only control their histrionics.
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Re: Local authority daycare nursery

Postby atticus » Wed Feb 17, 2016 9:50 am

Is this anything to do with this?
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