News, events and schools' information for families across Bath and West Wiltshire

Wiltshire Council leaders have agreed a new policy to help invest in pre-school places for the future.

Council officers have carried out a review and reported 23 temporary buildings leased to 22 pre-school providers will need replacing over the next 10 years. The buildings were funded from successful bids as part of the government Sure Start Local Programmes between 1997 and 2002.

These early years settings are operated primarily by charities or private organisations and they do not receive DfE capital funding for refurbishment or replacement. Many of the buildings are in areas of high deprivation and although the existing providers are responsible for replacing the building, the statutory duty to provide early years childcare is with the local authority.

Now council leaders have agreed a policy to help secure places for the future by providing financial support to private providers to invest in new stock. This policy will provide funding towards replacing these buildings, and ensure sufficient childcare remains available across the county.

At a cabinet meeting on 21 June, council leaders agreed a policy to contribute to the cost of replacing 23 existing building over a 10-year period assuming all other available options are explored such as other private landlords or maintained schools in the community area who could, due to falling birth rates, have unused classroom space. The council agree to contribute a maximum of 25% of the capital cost of a new building – this is based on maximum total place funding of £24,382 per existing place.

The future liability of maintaining and further replacement or enhancement of the buildings is for the provider to arrange.

The settings each provide between 16 and 57 early years places, with an overall total of 702 early years places that are at risk. Providers have been consulted regarding the outlines of these proposals and they have expressed confidence and support in the delivery of a new building with a financial contribution from the council.