Armidale Council to test appetite for private ECEC
The Sector > Provider > General News > Armidale Regional Council to ‘test the market’ for private ECEC providers

Armidale Regional Council to ‘test the market’ for private ECEC providers

by Freya Lucas

May 14, 2024

Armidale Regional Council (ARC) agreed to ‘test the private market’ to get a sense of the appetite for an early childhood education and care (ECEC) provider to take over operation of the Guyra Preschool and Long Day Care facility during its April meeting.


During the meeting, local media reports, councillors agreed to commission an Expression of Interest (EOI) to determine if any private ECEC providers or developers would have an interest in operating the current facility, and/or constructing a new facility.


A report to the meeting acknowledged that whilst ECEC was not a core function of Council, the Guyra Preschool and Long Day Care Centre was identified as a facility that is required to support the strategic ambition for future economic growth of the region.


During the meeting it was disclosed that ARC has received interest from the not-for-profit sector, private operators, as well as building contractors in operating and/or constructing a new childcare centre in Guyra.


However all interested parties indicated that they could not operate a new service effectively unless the Council retired its existing service, as it would not be viable for Guyra to host two services at the same time. 


In discussing the recommendation to the meeting, Cr Paul Packham said that he “recognised that childcare is a major driver of participation, especially of women, in the economy.”


“For too long we have been restricted by the facility currently operating,” he said. “We have to provide the opportunity for the market, or ourselves, to be placed in the best situation to provide those services. It has to be scalable and we have to have a mix, from babies to toddlers and long day care.”


Councillor Packham suggested that by initiating the EOI “we are going to come back with a whole bunch of solutions, not necessarily one where this council has to own it or build it, and hopefully it will come with private investment.”


Responding to concerns which had been circulated by the community through social media about the lack of public consultation Councillor Steve Mepham said it was “useless going to public without being armed with information about what is possible,” and that “it would be better to undertake that public consultation with a better understanding of what is available and what isn’t.” 


The Council unanimously endorsed a recommendation to commission an Expression of Interest (EOI) and also agreed to delegate authority to the General Manager to advance discussions with any interested parties and present a shortlist of the proponents back to Council, for consideration at a future meeting of Council.


To read the Guyra Gazette coverage of this story please see here

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