Cuts to early years' teaching staff are a 'severe risk' to Luton, meeting told

Planned cuts to early years' teaching staff in Luton are a “severe risk” to the borough, a meeting heard.

Wednesday, 7th October 2020, 10:16 am
Updated Sunday, 6th December 2020, 7:18 pm

The proposals were presented to the council’s administration and regulation committee.

“This is in response to the budget issues we’re facing as a local authority,” explained Carol Wylde, the council's adviser for early years and primary schools.

“There are possible redundancies within this proposal, which was taken to trade unions, although we’re doing our best to minimise those.

“Potentially it could be the loss of three posts. We do have some full-time posts in the new structure.”

The plan includes a £52,000 budget reduction for the early years team by 2021/22, according to a report to the committee.

“The service is also partly funded by income from other services within the council, and from schools and other education providers,” said the report.

“The impact of the pandemic means much of this will cease resulting in an extra shortfall of about £56,000.”

Liberal Democrat Stopsley councillor David Wynn told the committee: “I’m particularly concerned about (early years) suppliers becoming inadequate.

“Some of the actions here are going against our overall vision for the town,” he warned.

“I understand why and the context of the emergency budget.

“The report says: ‘There’s going to be an issue regarding the early literacy of children’.

“That I consider to be a severe risk to us as a borough.

“We have to improve the level of education of people within Luton if we’re to meet our objective of having a town where everyone can thrive.”

The council adviser shared his concerns, and said: “I find myself in a position where my passion about early years and early intervention, and supporting providers, is one thing that drives me.

“But I also have to work with the reality of the budget that I have available to form a team.

“I can’t allay those fears for you other than by saying that we will still have a team.

“And our team will be very carefully targeted to support the providers who’re most at risk and to support in those areas which are most important.”

Councillor Wynn replied: “I appreciate what Carol has said, but I do think that in some instances we should reconsider the spread of where some of these cuts are going.

“We’re desperately short of improving the educational achievement and practical training available to Luton people.”

She added: “By investing in our early years’ provision for our local children we’re trying to positively impact on standards of education for our children, on their educational outcomes and on the Luton 2040 strategy.

“That’s what we’re committed to doing. This proposal is trying to find a pragmatic way to continue to do that with a smaller resource, but not a non-existent resource.”

Labour Dallow councillor Hannah Adrees said: “It’s difficult times and none of us like cutbacks or to be making people redundant.

“The input of the trade union, the clarification it’s provided actually does give us some sort of reassurance.”

Service director education John Wrigglesworth described it as “an extremely painful process” finding ways to make savings.

“We don’t want to reduce the quality of our provision in Luton, so none of this is done lightly,” he said.

The committee agreed the job cuts and to implement a new staffing structure.