Lease changes to Newcastle childcare centres lamented

DESPITE all quarters agreeing that the matter had been badly handled, Newcastle City Council last week voted to revoke agreements negotiated with the city's community childcare centres two years ago.

Deals had been struck in 2012 with centres at Elermore Vale, Wallsend, Glendore, Hamilton and Maryland to "gift" them some buildings and land. Under the new system the not-for-profit centres will begin paying for leases.

Some centres say that will significantly increase their overall costs and threaten their long-term future.

The council's general manager Ken Gouldthorp told last week's meeting that he had met with the management of each centre and "had agreement that giving community assets away did not make sense".

He said the new deals would not deliver the council a profit or "any return on its investment".

But giving away sites would not ensure they stayed in public ownership in future, Mr Gouldthorp said.

He added if the council proceeded with plans to "gift" buildings and land to some of the centres, "there would be no legal mechanism to ensure they stayed in public ownership in the future".

Cameron Miskin, from Elermore Vale Early Learning Centre, said his centre would be unlikely to survive in the long term under the new arrangement.

"We have done all the figures and determined that gifting - the original plan approved by the council in 2012 - is still the best option for us," he said.

The council voted 7 to 6 in favour of adopting the new lease arrangements.

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