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Councillors ask to “investigate the reasons for the closure” of council operated nursery

NOTE: This content is old - Published: Thursday, Nov 2nd, 2017.

The reasons behind the closure of a council operated nursery are to be investigated by councillors.

Sprouts Nursery, located on Rhosddu Road, closed in September 2017, after Wrexham Council decided the facility is “unsustainable” without support from the local authority.

The nursery had been operated by Wrexham Council since 2015 and was set-up with a share of the Vibrant and Viable Places funding awarded to the council in 2014 by Welsh Government. It was one of several projects locally to receive a share of the multi million pound funding, including the town centre masterplan, the creation of a local lettings agency and also the conversion of the Peoples Market into an arts / market space.

In July 2017 Wrexham Council’s Forward Work Programme inadvertently revealed that the future viability of the nursery was up for discussion by the Executive Board. Such a discussion was held under Part 2, meaning press and public were unable to witness the secret debate.

Less than 24 hours after the meeting a letter was sent to parents whose children were in Sprouts, confirming that a decision had been made to close the facility in September.

A statement was later released by Council Leader Mark Pritchard, who said: “The decision to close was not taken lightly however, members took into account its current financial position and agreed that it was no longer sustainable.

“Sprouts opened in 2015 following an identified need for out of hours nursery provision in Wrexham. Unfortunately this need never fully materialised and we find ourselves in the position we do now.”

The reasons for the closure will now be examined by councillors of the Employment, Business and Investment Scrutiny Committee, after a ‘topic request form’ submitted by Cllr Marc Jones was approved by the committee.

Details within the topic request form submitted by Cllr Jones state: “To investigate the reasons for the closure of the Sprouts childcare nursery which was established as part of the VVP Project.

“The VVP Project is a Welsh Government three year regeneration investment programme in Wrexham town centre, which commenced in April 2014, with a total funding of over £10m. The Employment, Business & Investment Scrutiny Committee has previously monitored progress on the delivery of the project at meetings held in January and October 2016.

“At the meeting of the Executive Board held on 11 July 2017, it was resolved that, in light of its current financial position, this nursery service provision be closed.”

Expected outcomes of the report are noted as being: “To learn lessons re: developing public services, improving the way we spend public money effectively, engage with existing provision and enhance transparency in decision making.”

Speaking at yesterday’s meeting, Cllr Jones said: “This was has been on the cards for a few months. It is important we do scrutinise what happened with Sprouts. It was public money and lessons to be learned.

“We’ll scrutinise, challenge and find out what wrong. It’s not time sensitive.”

The reasons for Sprouts’ closure will be scrutinised by the committee at a later date, with priority being given to a more urgent scrutiny of the Council’s budget proposals.

Some of our tweets from last night’s meeting…

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