Closing crèches because they are badly run is an outrage

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Edinburgh Leisure management is incompetent, says Jo Howlett.

EDINBURGH Leisure claims the crches in its sports facilities require a 13.71 subsidy per child and that this is why the crches must close.

I'm sure there are many people wondering, as I did, why the subsidy is so high when typical childcare costs are 4.50 to 5.50 per hour. Furthermore, why does the subsidy per facility vary so widely from 5.41 to 15.70? Is Edinburgh Leisure running a well-managed organisation if it is more expensive than private gyms?

The answer is simple, the crches are seriously mismanaged with costs out of proportion to income. Edinburgh Leisure senior management and the council are using their financial mismanagement as a reason for closing them. Edinburgh Leisure has misled us about the subsidy. It did not include in the income figure any amount for membership fees paid by crche users. Membership fees are 41 per month typically. To then use this misleading figure as a reason for closing a socially important service is bad practice.

However, even with a proportion of this amount included, the subsidy figure would still be significantly higher than the amount private gyms charge.

The problem with the crches is two-fold and simple:

&#149 They have three members of staff working, regardless of the number of children.

&#149 The crches are not working to anywhere near capacity.

Fortunately, the solution to this situation is simple:

&#149 Market the crches.

&#149 Operate the crches properly, matching staffing levels with demand.

Sceptics may say, close the crches if they are under used. I would agree with them if the crches were marketed properly, but they are not. The Edinburgh Leisure crches are one of the best kept secrets in Edinburgh today.

Private gyms operate crches because it makes commercial sense – increased daytime users increase their off-peak income. Edinburgh Leisure fails to understand this to the detriment of its business.

It states that Edinburgh Leisure is not in the business of childcare, thereby failing to maximise its income.

The closure of the crches is symptomatic of a wider problem. Despite being an arms' length company, making losses and cutting services seems to be the default management behaviour.

Edinburgh Leisure's mismanagement of taxpayers' money slides inexorably to another cut in services with no attempt to ask the obvious questions and make changes.

This is why the closure of the crches is important for the whole community. We need to stand up to the council and Edinburgh Leisure and make them take responsibility for their inaction. There needs to be a thorough investigation into the financial and operational practices at Edinburgh Leisure.

&#149 Jo Howlett, crche campaigner