GE Kindergartens/Childcare


  • Caulfield Glen Eira Leader
  • Jenny Ling

Parents’ rising anger

Council childcare will be costly affair

AN INCREASE in fees at councilrun childcare centres has angered a Caulfield North father. Tasman Tudor said he would have to find alternative childcare for his two young children after receiving a letter from Glen Eira Council about rising costs.

Tasman and Brigid Tudor (with Maddison and Jasper) are concerned over the rise of childcare  costs.Under standard annual council increases effective this month, fees for three to five-year-olds will increase from $79 to $85 a day. For children aged up to three years of age, charges will rise from $85 to $91 a day.

And from next January, state government changes to child/staff ratios for under three-year-olds mean fees will increase a further $25 a day, from $91 to $116.

Ratios will change from one staff member for every five children to one for every four children in a bid to improve quality childcare.

Mr Tudor, whose two-year-old son is enrolled at Carnegie children’s centre, wants to enrol his one-year-old daughter next year for two days a week. ‘‘That’s $120 a week more,’’ Mr Tudor said. ‘‘The figures don’t add up as to why such an increase is justified.’’

Council spokesman Paul Burke said the rules ‘‘aim to improve quality care for children under three and require a substantially larger and more highly qualified workforce’’. ‘‘The consequence of these changes is that the cost to care for children under three is now significantly higher than caring for children in the three-to-five age group,’’ Mr Burke said.

Cr Neil Pilling said he was disappointed the council adopted the full price rise. ‘‘I understand the ratios have to change and there’s a need for a rise . . . but something less would have been a better outcome,’’ Cr Pilling said.

The following Media Release was issued today. As per usual, it is extremely vague and provides very little information for residents. Instead, there is a bevy of questions that need answering:

  • Will the new centre be paid for entirely by Council?
  • Will this proposed new centre mean the closing down of others and the ‘amalgamation’ of several?
  • If ‘amalgamation’ occurs, will council guarantee that no child will be disadvantaged or unable to find a place?
  • Will such an amalgamation mean staff cuts?
  • What plans are being pursued if the Alfred Health public land is not made available?
  • Is there no other land or building suitable in Glen Eira?
  • The continual policy line by council has been that it is unfair to take from one sector of the community in order to support another – ie. that priorities will have to change if childcare and kindergarten facilities are to come out of the budget. Why is it now possible to envision such a change? What current ‘priorities’ will have to go?
  • If there is amalgamation and the closure of certain centres, will council guarantee that these properties will not be sold off?

 

 Thursday 3 March 2011

Child care in Elsternwick

Glen Eira City Council has written to Alfred Health regarding its preferred options for the ongoing provision of child care in the Elsternwick area.

In May last year, Alfred Health informed Council that it would not extend the lease on the Kooyong Road building, which has been home to Elsternwick Children’s Centre for more than 20 years.

Glen Eira Mayor Cr Margaret Esakoff said Council’s preference is for the Centre to remain open under the current lease arrangements.

“This arrangement has been working well for the last 20 years and Council would like to see it continue — as would the families who have and do currently utilise the centre,” Cr Esakoff said.

“However, if Alfred Health is unable to commit to an ongoing lease then Council will seek to build a new childcare centre on available Crown land currently part of the Caulfield Campus of Alfred Health.

“Council believes a new purpose-built centre will not only provide a greater security of tenure, but an improved child care offering for the area.”

Cr Esakoff said Council intends to discuss the availability of Crown land with Local Members of Parliament and Ministers.

“Assuming Crown land is made available, Council also intends to seek a commitment from Alfred Health that the current lease arrangement continues until such time as the new centre is built,” Cr Esakoff said.

There’s a new Media Release  put out by Council which states: 

“Glen Eira City Council is pleased to report that all children have been offered a place (for 4 year old kindergarten) — including the nine children who have decided to remain on the waiting list for their first preference. Glen Eira Mayor Cr Margaret Esakoff said 736 places have been accepted.”

If true, then this is indeed fantastic. However, there are a few points that are not made clear and which perhaps cast some doubt on the veracity of the above claim.

As late as June 2010, the Age carried this paragraph in its story of kindergarten shortages: “Glen Eira mayor Steven Tang said 285 four-year-olds would miss out on a kindergarten place if no further funding were provided. In order to provide the 15 hours, Glen Eira would need $4 million to build six new kindergartens and replace another facility.”

The Caulfield Leader (18th May, 2010) also said – “Mayor Steven Tang said there were fears three-year-old kindergarten places would also be cut.” And “Murrumbeena Kindergarten teacher Michelle Ball said parents and teachers were concerned the extended hours could sacrifice three-year-old kinder children”.

From Council’s own commissioned report  ‘Universal Access’ there is the following paragraph:

“The clear view of the Glen Eira community is that implementation of 15 hours universal access should not be at the expense of the current service system (particularly three year-old kindergarten) and additional kindergarten facilities should be built to meet this new Council of Australian Governments (COAG) policy requirement. Three-year-old
kindergarten is seen as important in Glen Eira, and is in high demand. Many of the kindergartens that offer three-year-old kindergarten programs report extensive waiting lists. Any reduction in the overall availability of three-year-old programs in future would exacerbate already excessive demand.”

We therefore ask:

  • How has Council achieved such a remarkable turnaround in the space of 6 months?
  • What has happened to 3 year old kindergarten places? Have these been ‘sacrificed’ in order to fill 4 year old places?
  • What other cost cutting has taken place in this ‘achievement’?
  • Is the Media Release merely another example of not telling the whole story?

Council slashes funds

A lobby group finds finance for childcare centres has been cut by $400,000

 FREEDOM of Information documents obtained by a childcare lobby group show Glen Eira Council has been stripping funding from childcare centres since 2006.

Save Local Childcare Coalition spokeswoman Bronwyn Burton said the documents show ‘‘the council has slashed a $500,000 investment in 2006/07 to $95,000 in 2009/10’’.

A petition to save the Elsternwick Children’s Centre will be handed to the council this month.

More than 900 residents and traders have signed the petition after the council announced the closure of the Kooyong Rd centre in May. The building’s owner, Alfred Health, said it could not extend the centre’s lease beyond December. The council, which has ruled out buying the building or finding a replacement, voted in October to lobby the State Government to ensure land continued to be used for child care.

In a letter sent this month, Glen Eira Mayor Margaret Esakoff reiterated the council’s interests to Alfred Health. Alfred Health chief executive Andrew Way said the board of directors was ‘‘cognisant of the problems caused by the uncertainty’’ around the centre. ‘‘The board of directors has asked me to explore with the Victorian Department of Health ways in which this uncertainty can be overcome more quickly than the currently anticipated timescale of June/July,’’ he said.

 COMMENT: Our new members of Parliament should take careful note of this report. Glen Eira’s tactics have always been to ‘pass the buck’ onto State and Federal Governments or taking the Clayton’s approach of ‘action’ such as ‘advocating’ and ‘making representations’ to authorities.  Perhaps if State and Federal funding to Council was also cut by $500,000 then the blame game would stop and Council would be forced to budget appropriately and responsibly.

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Drain blame game  

Climate changes after flow map revealed 

GLEN Eira Council has slammed Melbourne Water’s drainage system and defended its response to flash floods which wreaked havoc across the city. Mayor Margaret Esakoff has called for a r eport into the February 4 event, and is seeking ‘‘urgent attention’’ from the water authority and the Government to improve main drains to reduce repeated flooding. 

The report will cover damage to Glen Eira properties, response times, Melbourne Water and the council’s drainage maintenance programs and Melbourne Water’s plans to reduce flooding in riskprone areas. It follows nearly a decade of council lobbying after Melbourne Water released a map of areas which would experience ‘‘overland flows’’ during intense rainfall because the capacity of the drains would be exceeded. 

‘‘The flooding of housing and businesses which occurred on February 4 closely matched this map,’’ a council report said. More than 100 Glen Eira homes were significantly affected. Cr Michael Lipshutz said Melbourne Water needed to ‘‘get its act together’’. ‘‘We are seeing climate change and we’re seeing more flooding in our areas,’’ Cr Lipshutz said. 

Cr Esakoff had admitted that the council had not adequately responded after outraged residents slammed its ‘ ‘ slow and uncoordinated’’ reaction. But at last week’s council meeting, she did a backflip, saying: ‘ ‘ Since then, information reviewed showed that this was not the case. The council was not slow to respond’’. But Melbourne Water floodplain manager Phillip Neville said Melbourne’s drainage system ‘‘does a great job’’. ‘‘We saw in excess of a one-in-500year storm in some parts of Melbourne,’’ Mr Neville said. ‘‘ An event of that magnitude would stretch the capacity of any drainage system.’’ 

THOUGH authorities have touted the recent flood as a ‘‘one-in-500-year storm’’, Glen Eira residents will tell you otherwise. Downpours cause repeated flooding in parts of the municipality, including the underpass on Normanby Rd near Caulfield racecourse and Boyd park in Murrumbeena.

Councillor Michael Lipshutz said his neighbours had been flooded four times in 12 months while Cr Jim Magee’s Bentleigh street has been flooded twice.  

In 2000 Melbourne Water, responsible for nine drainage systems in Glen Eira, released a map identifying areas expected to flood because the capacity of drains would be exceeded. Those areas include streets west of Orrong Rd in Ripponlea, streets either side of Hawthorn Rd south of Glenhuntly Rd, between Glenhuntly and Koornang roads in Carnegie, and between Murrumbeena and Poath roads in Murrumbeena. Melbourne Water floodplain manager Phillip Neville said when new properties were built, ‘‘ they’re built to a standard which would lessen the consequences if flooding does occur’’

COMMENT: We repeat our previous questions. How much of the flooding is a result of lack of maintenance of COUNCIL’S DRAINS and not Melbourne Water’s? How much of the flooding could have been avoided? Will Council produce a map of the drains under its responsibility? And if Council performed so ‘adequately’, then surely it can’t be mere coincidence that in the Tender Section of Saturday’s Age newspaper we find this advertisement: “Contract No.: 2011.014 Provision of Reactive Drain and Pit Cleaning Services

Requirement: Provision of stormwater drain/pit cleaning, jetting and root cutting services using a purpose built combination vehicle to supplement Council’s own service. Three year contract with an option on the part of Council to extend for a further period of two years”.

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Letters to the Editor

Take public open land discussion seriously  

GLEN Eira Council (councillors and administration) should be publicly pilloried for their appalling response to the Victorian Environment Assessment Council discussion paper on public open land. 

Glen Eira, which has the least public open space in Melbourne and numerous highly paid executives, should have been able to put together a detailed submission that was more than a hastily written onepage letter that lacked substance. Neighbouring councils and individual residents prepared detailed submissions – why didn’t Glen Eira Council?

 

When reporting on Glen Eira issues, the sad truth is that we’re often forced to rely on rumour and innuendo simply because the community is always the last to know what is really going on. What this means in reality is that the community has no say in anything. Decisions are inevitably made without transparency, without accountability, and without community input. The latest example concerns Booran Rd. Reservoir.

Here’s what we’ve been told –

  • It is currently being cleaned up
  • Workmen on the site claim that a kindergarten is on the cards
  • Neil Pilling is pushing for this

Terrific! Kindergartens are desperately needed in Glen Eira. But, and this is a big but, Glen Eira is only the MANAGER of the Booran Rd. Reserve. The terms of management designate the area for ‘recreation’. As ‘manager’ council does not have any say over use of the site – this must be determined by the State Government. Questions thus abound as to who is paying for what? What does this do to Magee’s plans for a kindergarten in his neck of the woods? Do all councillors know about such proposals? What about the desperate need for more open space? What’s happened to the promise for further ‘community consultation’ regarding use?

If these rumours prove correct, then it only reinforces the perception that backroom schemes and deals are the defining characteristic of Glen Eira administration and councillors.

Look who’s risen from the ashes! After months and months of silence Neil Pilling is back on his blog. (http://crpilling.blogspot.com/)  Sadly, there is no fire in the belly. All we get is a rehash of past history, a repeat of a whimpy motion passed months ago, and that’s it. No updates on ‘progress’; no report on ‘advocacy’ measures; no real news on anything. Does this mean that nothing has been done? Or does it simply mean that like most things all ‘action’ happens behind closed doors and the community is the last to know?

We thought it would be instructive to see how Glen Eira may have changed over the years – to discover whether processes, services, and governance practices have actually improved in the past 6 years. Our guide has been public and councillor questions dating mainly from 2004. We conclude that basically residents have the same concerns today as they did six years ago – childcare, aged care, openness and transparency, effective communication/consultation and planning issues. Reading these questions it is obvious that nothing much has changed in Glen Eira – except that public questions are no longer taken on notice. The quality of current answers however is another issue!! These questions provide a sad commentary on how little has actually been achieved.

“As Council has made a profit from selling of aged care facilities within the City and not actually increased places in the City, I ask what is being done with the profit and further what is being done to seek government funding in order to increase aged care facilities in the City?” (26th May, 2003)

“What are Council’s public policy objectives for child care and how do they achieve them?”(3rd May, 2004)

“The treatment of Childcare under the State Government’s new competitive neutrality policy requires the implementation of a public interest test prior to the application of CN pricing because of the inherent public policy issues associated with childcare.Can Council please explain why it has failed to undertake a public interest test prior to applying CN pricing policies to childcare services?” (3rd May, 2004) 

Cr Sapir referred to a public interest test and asked if one had been carried out and if so to what degree. She further asked; “what consultation process did Council take to advise parents that there was a proposed fee increase”? (24th May, 2004) 

“Why Minutes of Council Meetings are not available for distribution on request at the Caulfield Library? Should not that be part of standard policy of engagement of the community? Ready availability of such documents should add to the proper governance of the Council?” (24th May, 2004) 

“Can you please advise why did the Council cut down several 25 to 30 metre high trees on the corner of Jasmine and Birch without consultation with the near byresidents?” (9th Feb, 2004) 

“Since the Glen Eira Council has decided to stop subsidizing childcare centres with ratepayer income in the next financial year, will Glen Eira ratepayers see a reduction in rates as a result?” (22nd March, 2004) 

“Re Council Statement of Financial Performance to 29 February. Can you please reveal the source or sources of the above budget revenue of $954,000 from ‘other’sources in above budget? Have our drillers struck oil?” (22nd March, 2004) 

“How does Council justify that public questions that were asked in March 2003 have received a response on 6 April 2004 advising that the questions do not conform with Council’s public question time procedure. Please provide appropriate and specific explanations as this does not comply with acceptable time frames to me as by now I have given up on getting adequate answers from Council.” (13th April, 2004) 

“Why won’t Council undertake a ‘Public Interest Test” on childcare to assess community response?” (15th June, 2004) 

“The Community Plan that was passed this evening is supposed to provide a plan for the community to use as a means of measuring Council’s performance up to 2010. The indicators for 2010 however need further clarification. Which 3 park masterplans are intended for development? What does Council mean by consulting with the University? What are the character amendments that are to be adopted?Which community centre is to be built? What about the 3rd community centre? What are the implications of keeping rates to at least 10% below our 7 Benchmark Councils? These are but a few questions that need to be answered in a Community Plan that purports to be a vision for the future?” (15th June, 2004) 

“We would be most grateful if a meeting could be arranged with relevant councillors and staff (prior to the release of second round offers scheduled for 27th August), in order to discuss the Council’s enrolment policy which fails to give priority to the children currently attending ‘3 year old kinder’ and who wish to continue on with their pre-school education at the same kinder the following year?” (16th August, 2004) 

“As Cr Erlich has observed the report to tonight’s meeting is interesting but unless a measure of input is used together with output, it is largely meaningless from the point of view of effectiveness. Will Council consider reporting the appropriate ‘INPUT’ as well as ‘output’ in future service reports?” (6th September, 2004) 

 “Will the Council apply its generous concessions given to tennis clubs to childcare centres and if not could it please explain why the council’s policy that services used by a minority of the community should be cost neutral and not subsidized by ratepayers, applies to childcare centres but not tennis clubs?” (27th September, 2004) 

“The Agenda papers for Council Meeetings have for some time included public questions and answers. I note that the Agenda papers have, for the last 2-3 meetings, not included Public Questions and Answers. Can Council explain why this is so? Is there anything preventing Council from continuing with this practice?”(8th November, 2004) 

“Of all C type Amendments proceeded with a statutory process:1. How many have used the full statutory process of 6 steps? 2. How many use only 2 steps? 3. How many used broad community consultation prior to step 1 of the statutory process? and 4. How many used a public discussion paper as part of broad community consultation prior to step 1 of the statutory process?” (29th November, 2004) 

“Will Council put the proceeds from sale of Council land toward purchase of alternative open space in Glen Eira, & that purpose only.” (29th November, 2004) 

“The Minister for Planning announced that Councils may apply for a number of interim height controls to provide for greater certainty for residents & developers. Will Council take up on this initiative?” (29th November, 2004)

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