Lifestyle April, 17th 2010 by

More than 100 children left behind by delays in municipal childcare plans

The Fuente Nueva municipal childcare centre, under construction.

Delays in Marbella’s planned construction of new municipal childcare centres have left more more than a hundred families without a place to send their children during the day, and leading to serious difficulties reconciling family and work life. There are currently 256 applications for just 128 available places in municipal childcare centers.

The planned municipal nurseries in Bello Horizonte, Nueva Andalucia and Fuente Nueva in San Pedro de Alcántara remain bogged down in bureaucracy, affecting the pockets of parents forced to enroll their children in private centres.

With the failure of new centres to materialize, Marbella currently has three nursery schools – Las Albarizas, El Pinar and Las Chapas, with a combined total of 210 seats. However, according to early estimates by the Department of Education, only 128 are available to families who registered  their children for the first time because prior children remain. At the closing date for applications, the city recorded 256 new applications, 29 fewer than in 2009 and 79 fewer than a year earlier. Some spaces may still be open, however, if your current awardees do not meet certain requirements, such as being registered in Marbella.

The Councillor for Education, Carmen Diaz, is the first to recognize that the demand far exceeds supply, especially in times of crisis, when families put all their effort into gaining a spot in municipal nursery schools, with the most expensive costing just over a hundred euros. Diaz says that the deficit will ease significantly once Marbella is able to solve its bureaucratic issues and complete the three planned centres, adding 492 new seats.

But the problem is that, for various reasons and for several years, there has been no practical way to fully meet the demand. One problem has been the difficulty in securing contracts with companies to build and operate the centres. Fuente Nueva, a project dating back to 2000, is one example. Five years after the project began, the first contractor, Copasur, decided to halt the project, breaking its contract unilaterally.

The city reopened  the project in June 2009 with a budget of 915,000 euros. The work will be carried out this time by Ute Novasoft-Colegio Rincón Añoreta. The Fuente Nueva centre, which could be in operation next year if construction is finally completed on time, will extend over an area of 1,360 metres and will house 160 students.

The children of Nueva Andalucia and Bello Horizonte will have to wait even longer. Bello Horizonte, with a dozen classrooms, at one time seemed to be ahead of Fuente Nueva in likely completion date. However, this year’s winter rains stopped work to such an extent that, as Diaz points out, the project, held by Training Educational Centres SL South Central, will need to be completely revised.

In Bello Horizonte, the city is having problems with the contractor, who is claiming difficulties stemming from the economic crisis. This center, with 2,000 square metres, has a budget of 1.3 million euros. Public funds for construction have been withdrawn due to lack of collateral. Under such circumstances, no company would make an offer because banks will not lend money. Therefore, the government decided to seek a negotiated procedure directly with any company that might be interested. None was found.

Now, after months of difficulty with Bello Horizonte, the City Council has released funds, which will be available within days. 

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