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'Callous incompetence' of council leadership blamed by opposition for collapse of community trust

PUBLISHED: 10:22 29 November 2019 | UPDATED: 13:16 29 November 2019

The Priory Centre closed following the collapse of the Great Yarmouth Community Trust Picture: Liz Coates

The Priory Centre closed following the collapse of the Great Yarmouth Community Trust Picture: Liz Coates

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Norfolk County Council's leadership has been accused of "callous incompetence" after the collapse of the Great Yarmouth Community Trust.

Steve Morphew, Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYSteve Morphew, Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The trust announced the sudden closure of eight nurseries, Horatio House school and Nexus College on Wednesday evening, leaving hundreds of families in limbo without childcare provision yesterday.

Among those to close were Calthorpe Nursery, Peggotty Nursery, Priory Day Nursery and Willow Day Nursery - all of which are in Great Yarmouth.

In Lowestoft, Ladybird Day Care at Kirkley Children's Centre and the Little Ducks Day Nursery have closed.

Norfolk County Council said it is taking 'urgent action' to minimise the impact of the closures.

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk County Council.Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

But Steve Morphew, Labour leader at the county council, hit out at the Conservative leadership, citing the closure of a number of children's centres as a key factor in the collapse.

He said: "Once responsible for three children's centres that made up a major part of the trust's income, within two months of the centres being closed by the county council the trust collapsed, taking with it childcare for 450 families and 136 jobs.

"This is callous incompetence that has left families in Great Yarmouth without childcare and support as they face a demanding Christmas.

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"It's a betrayal and the collapse of a huge part of the support families need, brought about by failing to see the obvious.

"It was entirely predictable that if you strip an organisation like the community trust of nearly a third of its turnover by closing the children's centres it would leave them vulnerable.

"If they failed to do the basic due diligence on the consequences of that decision they are culpable for the consequences."

Norfolk County Council leader Andrew Proctor said: "Our first thoughts are with 
the children affected by the closure of the nurseries, because they have nowhere to go in the meantime.

"What we're looking to do is try to get some services up and running again. We've set up a company to do that. We hope to get the nursery service up and running again in the week of December 9.

"We're sorry that it will take that time, but we need to take that time to get it right.

"The county council acted as soon as it possibly could to do what it possibly can."

Executive director of children's services Sara Tough said: "We are sad that the Great Yarmouth Community Trust and its staff, who have supported many children and families over the years, have found themselves in this position."

The county council confirmed it has established a company aiming to provide the Norfolk nursery places in Great Yarmouth which will be lost as a result of the collapse, with the hope of offering new jobs to the "vast majority" of frontline staff.

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