600 Jobs At Risk As Nursery Company Faces Funding Crisis

Concern is mounting for the jobs of 600 staff at the crisis-hit One Plus, one of Scotland’s biggest after-school and nursery providers. The company, which owned a chain of creches which collapsed last month, has told unions staff may not be paid after tomorrow.

If that happens liquidators are expected to be called in and the organisation wound up. A meeting is scheduled for today when the One Plus board is expected to decide on its future.

There will also be an emergency meeting with the organisation’s bank this afternoon to see if a rescue package is available.

Glasgow City Council, which is the biggest customer of One Plus, has already provided £700,000 in recent weeks to give the organisation “some financial breathing space” and to allow the authority time to develop contingency measures.

One Plus has also gone to the Scottish Executive for £2m but its refinancing proposal was rejected. Instead, the executive wants a full inquiry into how the organisation got into this situation.

It is understood to have already called in recovery specialists KPMG to have the One Plus accounts checked.

Since its formation 25 years ago One Plus has become one of the highest profile family charities, billing itself as the largest provider of lone parents services in Europe. It is estimated up to 1000 families use its services daily, while its turnover is reckoned to be about £12m a year. It also provides training, helplines and advice, as well as being one of the biggest lone parent lobby groups in Britain.

Last December a subsidiary, KidCare, which provided the creche facilities at the Scottish Parliament, folded, leaving 75 staff out of work. It went out of business on the first working day after it collected monthly payments from parents.

At the time chief executive David Coyne insisted One Plus would be unaffected by KidCare’s collapse.

Management are understood to be blaming a delay in European funding for the crisis. But as recently as the weekend most staff were unaware just how severe the situation has become.

One long-serving member of staff predicted fellow employees would have their contracts terminated on Tuesday and made redundant.

She added: “For many people, this is more than a job. It is a vocation. Hundreds of people will be left distraught by this.”

Dan Sharpe, of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, which represents almost one-third of the workforce, said he was demanding a meeting with management by today.

He added: “We had offered our assistance to lobby the Scottish Executive and this was rejected by the One Plus convener. In all my 29 years as a union official I’ve never experienced this level of incompetence in the management of any organisation.”

Last night, the executive confirmed One Plus put forward a refinancing proposal in December but it “just did not stand up”.

A spokeswoman said both the executive and the local authorities which use One Plus have also been looking to recruit other care providers.

She added: “That is why Glasgow City Council and the executive are supporting the company to give it some financial breathing space to look at its options and to give authorities time to develop contingency measures. The council has provided £700,000 in recent weeks.

“The executive has already made clear its position on a refinancing of the organisation. Ministers will also want a full investigation and report on how this situation was allowed to arise.”

A Glasgow City Council spokeswoman added: “We have been involved in discussions with other providers from both the voluntary and private sectors and are confident that, between us, we will be able to cater for all the youngsters affected.”

Hilary Long, One Plus convener, said she would not let the organisation collapse “without a fight”.

She said: “It will cost £10m to wind this company up and we’re asking for £2m to keep us going and to look at a restructuring.

“We will not sign liquidation papers today but will meet our bank to see what can be done. We will also lobby politicians to stay afloat. We will not go down without a fight.”