Speaking about funding cuts to Hackney nurseries at the elections hustings at North London Muslim Community Centre on Sunday 2 May, Mayor Jules Pipe said, “Just a point of information, because I know it might have come up – about nurseries.
“There is a problem at the moment with dealing with them through the Learning Trust because it’s at arms length and sometimes we only find out things from what’s actually happening on the street.
“As soon as I found about this, I received assurances from the Learning Trust that this is not a cut to the overall budget.
“There are about 3 or 4 funding streams that nurseries get. One of them, is a £2 million funding stream, that the Learning Trust makes from its core budget, and that’s specifically to help children in need and vulnerable children.
“And what I’ve been assured – I still haven’t heard it form the Chief Executive of the Learning Trust – but what I’ve been assured is, that budget has been increased, but rather than allocating it on a historical basis, they want to re-distribute it on the basis of actual need within each nursery.
“Now obviously that’s going to involve some nurseries going down, and I would expect from that, some nurseries going up, depending on the level of need in those nurseries.
“Now if that is the case, then that is something I would support, that the money is following where the need is, rather than just money being distributed because it was always distributed that way.
“And so as long as that is what is happening and that there isn’t an actual cut – and I’m assured that there is an increase in that budget that goes with that – that is something I would support.
“What I do not support is the way in which it has been done, because I didn’t know anything about it, the nurseries didn’t know anything about it until they received the letters in the last few weeks – which I think is disgusting – and that’s one of the reasons why I’m glad that over the next two years we are winding down the Learning Trust in time for the ending of its contract in 2012 and this kind of nonsense where directly elected people don’t even know what’s going on with a public service, will come to an end.”
Commenting in the Hackney Citizen’s mayoral digital debate, Green mayoral candidate Mischa Borris said, “[These are] reductions in “commissioning funding” paid by the Learning Trust (I think from funds received in turn from Hackney Council) to various nurseries – at the moment I don’t know how many nurseries are affected, since not every nursery receives it.
“It’s ‘top up’ money on top of the funding for 16 hours provision for each child given by central government. The nurseries were expecting reductions, but not the size of the reductions and to take effect immediately.
“That’s the really crucial point – if your budget is cut by £50,000 immediately, you have no time to plan how to manage it. These will have an impact on working parents and their children.”
Andrew Boff, Conservative candidate for Hackney mayor said,”There is a danger that resources are spread too thinly. There is also the question of the very rates of poor pay already in the nursery sector where some staff are paid close to minimum wage – well below the London Living Wage. I see no justification for these cuts for a service that is already over-stretched.
The staggering thing about this is the almost complete lack of consultation. This has been the history of the Learning Trust since its inception. It has an inability to consult. We saw this in the high-handed way it ‘integrated’ the Mapledene Children’s Centre and only informed parents after the decision had been made.”
Adrian Gee-Turner Liberal Democrat candidate said,” I also have heard about this possible cut but I have not seen any detail.
“In principle, it would go against everything the Labour Government has been promoting as the evidence is the early years are key to establishing the bed rock for equality and a better start in life to escape the confines of you birth.
“…having just become a dad myself on Monday (last) week it would be mad if it were true. If it is true as Mayor I will reverse this plan to cut the budget for nurseries.”
When asked to respond to the Mayors’ description of its handling of the reallocation of funds as ‘disgusting’, a Learning Trust spokesperson said they had no comment.
The Learning Trust was created by the current government in August 2002 as an intervention to improve a failing public service.
Update: the Learning Trust responded to the Mayor’s comments 6.11pm Tuesday 4 May.
A Learning Trust spokesperson said, “We are disappointed by the tone of the comments attributed to Mayor Pipe at the weekend.
“Nurseries were properly consulted over the planned changes to funding and have been financially protected through the period of transition.
“The overall spend on nurseries and funding per child in Hackney is increasing this year. This funding is specifically targeted at the families of children who are vulnerable or disadvantaged, or who have special educational needs.
“From the moment The Learning Trust took control of education services in Hackney, every decision we have taken has been in the best interests of its children and young people.
“We have made a significant impact across schools and educational settings in the borough.
“This is why we are introducing a new nursery funding framework in September that will benefit more children and more families in Hackney.
“Regarding the comments about the future of The Learning Trust, we are expecting a constructive dialogue about the future provision and governance of education with the Council. Our main concern will be to ensure the continuing rapid improvement in outcomes for all children, young people and adult learners.
“The Learning Trust maintains excellent relationships with its schools and settings and continues to work in partnership with all its stakeholders, including the Council. We are proud of our record over the last eight years.”