Upper Hunter ELC to be sold: Councillor speaks out
The Sector > Practice > Long Day Care > Councillor speaks out about Scone’s decision to sell Upper Hunter ELC

Councillor speaks out about Scone’s decision to sell Upper Hunter ELC

by Freya Lucas

July 31, 2023

Councillor Elizabeth Flaherty has published an editorial on local newsite Scone.com.au, critiquing the Scone Council’s decision to place the Upper Hunter Early Learning Centre on the market. 


Councillor Flaherty is also the Managing Director of the scone.com.au website. An extract of her remarks appears below. To read the full story, please see here


Early in 2022 the Council was approached, she explained, by an interested buyer for the service, at which point an independent valuation by Colliers was commissioned. 


In July last year, Councillors were informed of the information above but were not told who the interested buyer was and were not provided with a copy of the valuation, which had been completed the month before, Ms Flaherty continued.


Despite this, the Council voted to commission an independent real estate agent to invite expressions of interest in the business. That independent real estate agent also ended up being Colliers.


The service, Ms Flaherty said, is the only long-term day care centre in the Shire and is “arguably the only Council asset which can deliver a positive cash flow”.


She expressed concern not only for the 57 children and families who access the service on any given day, but also for the employees. 


As well as a “hit to the bottom line” for the Council, in terms of revenue, Ms Flaherty said families may also be impacted should a for-profit provider purchase the asset, and set fees at market rate. 


“Once the asset is sold, the new owner is not bound by the Local Government and is a servant to shareholders, not the community,” she emphasised. 


“Selling the Upper Hunter Early Learning Centre may give a quick cash injection of a few million, but that won’t even hit the sides of the debts accumulating from other projects,” she continued. 


“Running day care centres may not be core Council business, but neither are cafes, function centres, liquor licences, airports, sale yards, golf courses, or Campbell’s Corner. Arguably the day care centre supports more employment than the other projects and is the only one not making a loss. This seems a lot like robbing Peter to pay Paul.”


“I am concerned with selling a valuable community asset. I am concerned with the process of doing so. I am concerned with the way it has been rushed and I am completely uncomfortable with the lack of scrutiny and consultation with the very people affected by this, the ratepayers and users of the centre,” she concluded. 


Ms Flaherty’s original editorial may be accessed here

Download The Sector's new App!

ECEC news, jobs, events and more anytime, anywhere.

Download App on Apple App Store Button Download App on Google Play Store Button