Decision made on the future of Ripon creche

Ripon Leisure Centre. Picture: Google Images.
Ripon Leisure Centre. Picture: Google Images.

Councillors have voted in favour of closing the Harry's Place Childcare at Ripon Leisure Centre, citing the ongoing cost of operating the crèche as the main reason.

“It's a great regret we have to bring this to cabinet tonight. It's been on the radar for sometime, it’s a great shame,” cabinet member with responsibility for the crèche, Coun Stanley Lumley, said at the March 27 meeting of cabinet.

He said that while a five-month trial of measures implemented last year had produced an improved performance at the centre, the projected net cost of operation still remained above £20,000 per year.

“We tried what we could to market it, to increase footfall...(but) we now find the cost to subsidise that facility now outweighs demand,” he said.

Coun Mike Chambers spoke against closing the crèche, stating that he thought there was "still some mileage" in making it sustainable.

"I do think this is still premature," he said.

"There will clearly be some concern with residents of Ripon.

“Whilst I accept a lot of the findings, I think there is still some mileage in making this crèche work.”

He added that with a new swimming pool due at the site, “there will be a real need for this facility”.

"I think we should not necessarily withdraw the facility without ensuring it has come to a natural end," he said.

Coun Lumley responded that "those were my very thoughts 12 months ago when it was first brought to me".

"We tried to get numbers up (since then) but it just hasn't been successful," he said.

He said new options that could be explored included "pop-up crèches" which would operate when groups of new mums visit the leisure centre to exercise.

He was supported by council leader Richard Cooper, who said: "We have a crèche there that was brought in to being because people who use it go and use the facilities (as well)...they're not doing that".

“Not only are they not doing it, it's costing everyone else £103 per child per visit for those users,” he said, citing a figure from the council report which stated a projected subsidy of £103 per visit for those who used the crèche, but not the exercise facilities over the next year.

Put to the vote, all cabinet members voted in favour of closure, with the exception of Coun Chambers who voted against.

An exact date for closure will be agreed on between the cabinet member with responsibility for the crèche, Coun Lumley, and the creche's head of service.

Following the meeting, UNISON branch secretary Dave Houlgate said staff were "devastated" by the decision.

“The staff have been magnificent and the increase in such a short time quite phenomenal but clearly the council feels the increase is not enough," he said.

"The result is that three members of staff lose their jobs and Ripon loses this public service."

“We will now support our members in trying to find suitable alternative employment and we will continue to put the case for maintaining public services."

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter