A DUNFERMLINE councillor has called for changes to Fife Council’s nursery allocations as “something has clearly gone far wrong”.

However, Helen Law withdrew an amendment at the policy and co-ordination committee after members voiced fears that places given to children for August could be taken away if it was passed.

She insisted that was “never my intention” but promised to revisit the issue at the meeting next month: “It’s time to look at the policy again. It clearly hasn’t worked.”

Cllr Law told councillors: “There’s a high level of dissatisfaction. This should have been a good news story for Fife Council and it’s turned into a bad news story. We’ve created a system to meet the directives of the Scottish Government when it should have been designed to meet the needs of children and families in Fife.

“There are places for everyone but not necessarily where people need them or can even get to.”

She continued: “There are 140 half-day places at Inzievar, 70 in the morning and 70 in the afternoon, but only 55 have signed up.

“At Halbeath, there are 128 half-day places and only 17 children are registered for those.

“On the other hand, at St Margaret’s, there are 60 all-day places and there are 100 children trying to get in there. And at Townhill, there are 35 all-day places and 60 on the waiting list.

“Something has clearly gone far wrong. It seems to be a bit of a mess.”

In May, Cllr Law labelled the process an “omni-shambles” after 385 children were told they didn’t have a place for August while others cannot return to the nursery they were attending and must now go elsewhere.

She’s also annoyed that priority is not given to youngsters where there is an elder sibling at the attached school.

The meeting was told that around 135 children are still to be offered a place for next term and 2,000 are on waiting lists across Fife.

Council co-leader David Ross said there “seems to be a mismatch between what parents want and the models we’re able to give them”.

Due to COVID-19, councils are no longer obliged to offer 1,140 hours of free childcare provision to three- and four-year-olds, and eligible two-year-olds, from August.

However, the council has already allocated the nursery places for the new system and will offer a mix of 600 and 1,140 hours during the changeover. It’s also not clear yet what impact physical distancing measures will have on capacity.

Head of education and children’s services Shelagh McLean said the high number on the waiting list did not reflect dissatisfaction with the process.

She explained: “Any child who doesn’t get their first choice is automatically put on a waiting list and, if their first choice does become available, they will be offered to change.

“It’s important to say 85 per cent of parents got their first choice. I know if you’re not one of those parents that doesn’t make it any easier.

“It’s not that we haven’t provided parents with what they want but we have to work towards getting as good a match as we possibly can.”

And she said that while some sessions may be more popular, they had to offer a variety of models and hours to try and suit different family needs while also ensuring there were enough places in each of the 22 nursery areas in Fife.

A review will be carried out and a consultation with parents will take place in October/November.