THE future of Taylors Gully Childcare Centre at Stawell is in doubt after a council report recommended its closure.
Northern Grampians Shire Council’s Children’s Services Future Options report proposes three models, with two advocating the centre’s closure.
One of the three models will also see St Arnaud Childcare Centre close.
Australian Services Union organiser Mark Brady said he believed council was intent on closing Taylors Gully.
“Taylors Gully is going to go and there’s no scope for anyone to take over the centre,” he said.
“The council is going to walk away. The biggest town in the municipality will be without a council-provided centre.”
But Northern Grampians Mayor Kevin Erwin said no decision had been made on the centre’s future.
“There might be some changes, yes, but I won’t pre-empt those until we get the full report done,” he said.
“It is important to note that no decisions have been made, and as a council, we are reviewing all options available.
“Changes to services are not something that we take lightly and any changes we decide to make will be done to provide the best outcome for the shire as a whole.”
Cr Erwin said there was no timeline on the possible changes.
“It is a service we have been looking at,” he said.
“It does cost a lot of money and it’s heavily subsidised by council money.”
“It is important to note that no decisions have been made, and as a council, we are reviewing all options available.''
Mr Brady said 30 staff from the centre as well as two cleaners faced the possibility of losing their jobs if the centre closed.
He said the only other childcare provider – the privately-operated Stawell Early Learning Centre – was unlikely to take on any staff from Taylors Gully.
“If you’re an early child educator, what are you going to do?” he said.
“The other provider is full so the only option is to pack up and move.”
He said the knock-on effects of job losses could have serious consequences for Stawell’s economy.
“For everyone who loses their job that’s ‘x’ amount of money that won’t be spent in local businesses,” Mr Brady said.
“It’s a flow-on effect that really rips the heart out of a town.”
Mr Brady said the centre provided essential services to disadvantaged and disabled children, who were unlikely to be accommodated at Stawell Early Learning Centre.
He said the restructure of the shire’s childcare services was not a response to federal funding cuts.
“It’s been floated for the past three years,” he said.
“They’re talking about the cost involved in childcare and they have to look at ways to restructure.”
Cr Erwin said it was not time to panic over possible closure of the centre.
Council will meet the union for talks on Monday.