The fate of council run creches in Fife remains in the balance after councillors voted to defer the decision for more detail on the impact of the closures.
A decision made by the council’s education and children’s services sub-committee last November was to close all creches, as well as some after-school clubs, run by the local authority in a bid to save £488,000.
Breakfast clubs for children in deprived areas were also to be left to schools to provide.
However, concerns were raised the decision was taken without full consideration of the impact.
This resulted in the education and children’s services, health and social care scrutiny committee recommending deferral of the implementation of the new approach at a meeting earlier this month.
“We need to look harder at the needs of our communities and families and our job to make things better for them, not worse.”
Councillor Helen Law
Now, a final decision on the proposals has been referred back to the education sub-committee following a vote at a full meeting of Fife Council.
Labour councillor David Ross argued that not enough consideration had been given to the impact of the decision on disadvantaged communities.
He said: “Whilst I recognise a lot of work has gone into this, we feel that there are fundamental things that have not been addressed properly.
“On top of that, things have changed due to Covid and also due to the implementation of the 1,140 hours nursery expansion.
“We feel there is the need to refer this back and look at it again. Not enough attention has been made to the impact on families, particularly those from some of our more disadvantaged communities.”
Creches would be “missed by many”
Mr Ross also revealed he had received “more than a dozen” emails from members of the public who wanted the creches open.
One said they were “eagerly awaiting” the reopening of the Benarty Creche as it allowed them a few hours to work without distractions.
Another explained how the Broom Creche, in Leven, was “great” for their children’s progress and said it would be “missed by many” if were to be closed.
During the November meeting Councillor Helen Law, also Labour, argued for the creches to remain open.
Today she said: “We need to look harder at the needs of our communities and families and it’s our job to make things better for them, not worse.
“These creches have been a lifeline for families and I think if we were living in different times there would’ve been a bit of a campaign.
“I think young mums would’ve been outside the council offices with placards, but of course that’s much more difficult given the lockdown.”
“It’s had more attention than almost anything else”
Conservative councillor Dave Dempsey, however, rejected claims that not enough consideration had been given to the impact of the proposals.
He said: “Looking at some of the things that have been said in the debate, Councillor Ross said that it hasn’t had enough attention.
“This is the fourth meeting plus a workshop, it’s had more attention than almost anything else I can think if in recent times.”
“If this went ahead as we propose, the administration can deal with the detail by decentralising the decision.”
Councillor Dave Dempsey
Mr Dempsey, who wanted the proposals approved, also argued that in the event of the creches being closed, the council would ensure that families are not missing out on services.
He said: “[Councillor Ross] quoted lots of emails and yes, members of the public will be concerned about these things, but there is hardly a proposal in existence that doesn’t attract emails from people who are unhappy.
“If this went ahead as we propose, the administration can deal with the detail by decentralising the decisions so that they are made appropriate to the locations that they affect.”
An amendment to defer the decision was approved by 56 votes to 12.
A decision on the future of the creches, as well as moving to a “more sustainable model” of delivering childcare services, will be made by the education sub-committee at a later date.