This month’s City of Sydney council meeting revealed that the Lord Mayor Clove Moore had moved to cut $22 million previously allocated for spending on childcare from the council’s 2014-2015 budget.
A 2013 report produced by the City showed a gap of 3104 in the number of places needed to meet the current demand for childcare in the inner city. This figure is estimated to grow to almost double by 2030.
While Cr Moore has committed an additional $55 million over four years to build six new childcare centres, which would provide over 300 new places, councillors have questioned whether this is an adequate sum.
“It was always clear from the City’s own research that the additional 300 to 350 places created would be the equivalent of one grain in the sandpit-sized hole of new childcare places that are needed,” Labor Councillor Linda Scott said.
City of Sydney Chief Executive Officer Monica Barone has denied claims the City’s childcare budget had been slashed.
“The $55 million pledge is still intact,” she said. “Now we think we can deliver these new childcare centres for less.”
Cr Moore said council will bring forward the funding allocation to fast track the six new childcare centres, with plans for the first centre already drawn up.
But, Cr Scott argues that this is still not enough.
“When [I have gone] door knocking, inner city parents would cry at the doorstep telling of their frustration of not being able to find a place for their child,” she said.
Cr Scott believes Sydney risks losing its skilled workforce because many nurses and teachers, for example, can’t return to work due to the shortage of childcare in the inner city and beyond.
“We need more childcare, not less, and as a Labor councillor, I will not stop fighting until I see this $22 million cut reversed, and significantly more childcare places built in inner city Sydney. Our City’s families, and our economy depends on a skilled workforce,” she said.
While the debate over childcare spending continues, the City has also committed to a record $1.94 billion building and construction program over the next ten years, the biggest in its history. Furthermore, the City’s budget includes a $106 million annual surplus, putting the council in a strong financial position.
“Sydney is the global city of Australia and our ten year financial plan is a massive investment to nurture the city’s liveability, economy, tourism, sustainability, open spaces and its cultural life,” the Lord Mayor said.
Major commitments to be delivered over the next ten years include $440 million towards building community facilities and infrastructure in the Green Square precinct, such as a new town centre and library, as well as $220 million towards redeveloping George Street into an efficient, accessible and memorable thoroughfare for pedestrians and commuters.
The council budget places particular emphasis on refurbishing amenities and infrastructure, as shown by the $240 million directed to upgrade public areas, and $130 million to upgrade the City’s parks and green spaces.
The controversial Barangaroo development also received $37 million from the budget for its integration with the surrounding Millers Point area.