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Volume 469: debated on Monday 17 December 2007

Local authority day nurseries play an important role in our diverse child care market, including delivery of the free early education entitlement and securing sufficient good-quality child care. The Department’s annual child care and early years providers survey collects information from providers, including local authorities, on the number of places, staff characteristics, qualifications and income. The 2006 survey showed that there were 700 local authority day nurseries providing a total of 30,600 child care places.

Parents in Milton Keynes value the council’s eight day nurseries so highly that they have just mounted a successful campaign that forced the Liberal Democrat-controlled council to withdraw its proposals to close some of them. Will the Minister join me in congratulating the parents on their campaign, and confirm that it is entirely for Milton Keynes council to decide on the future role of those nurseries and on the priority that it chooses to give them?

I do congratulate the parents, and my hon. Friend on her role in supporting them. I find it extraordinary that the council considered that. As she knows, from April next year every local authority has a duty to ensure that there is sufficient child care of different types to meet the needs of parents in its area, so every authority should be assessing its supply and the demand from parents for additional supply and working towards matching demand and supply. It is extraordinary to be thinking about closing provision when the council should be assessing whether it has enough.