Nurseries owner hits out at government cuts

Mahyar Mortazavi at Wee Gems in Broxburn. Picture: Neil Hanna
Mahyar Mortazavi at Wee Gems in Broxburn. Picture: Neil Hanna
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THE owner of a chain of nurseries has lashed out at funding cuts to childcare provision, which he claims are making him think twice about expanding his business.

Mahyar Mortazavi, who runs the Wee Gems nursery business, says Scottish Government cuts to local council budgets are putting pressure on his industry.

Mortazavi, who has outlets in Broxburn and Livingston and plans to open branches in Armadale and Bathgate, said he would have to think twice about any further expansion because of the uncertainty surrounding education cuts.

He told Scotland on Sunday: “I can’t understand some of the political decisions that are being made.

“You can walk into a chemist’s shop and receive your prescription for free, even though that’s something most people could pay for.

“But when it comes to funding childcare – which allows parents to go back out to work and generate income – these cuts are counterproductive.”

Mortazavi founded his first nursery in Broxburn in 2005 and sold a 35 per cent stake in the firm to investor James Boyd Murdoch in 2008 to ­finance the opening of his branch in Livingston. Murdoch­ also became Wee Gems’ finance director. The firm employs 65 staff and turns over £1.3 million a year.

Now Mortazavi is looking to seal a deal with a property developer to open a site in Armadale and is eyeing locations in Bathgate. He said: “West Lothian Council has been very supportive while we have been growing the business, but it just isn’t getting the money from the government.”

One industry source said the situation in West Lothian was being repeated around Scotland. While there are statutory entitlements for three- and four-year-olds, cash for extra hours is being squeezed.

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association, said: “Funding for pre-school ­places should follow the child. It is also important that funding from local authorities covers the full cost of providing pre-school places.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The overall local government funding settlement will see council’s receive a cash increase in funding of £35.2 million for new or extended service delivery.

“The Children & Young People Bill will increase the entitlement from 475 hours to 600 hours per year funded pre-school education from 2014. The Bill will also aim to ensure greater flexibility in how the entitlement is delivered.”