Penniless Little Venice pre-school left fighting for survival

Parkview Lodge told by Westminster Council to pay new increased rent or face eviction

A Little Venice pre-school group is fighting for survival after Westminster Council withdrew funding, drastically increased its rent and then threatened it with eviction if it failed to pay.

Parkview Lodge pre-school on Senior Street lost a council grant earlier this year with the council advising them to increase fees to make up for the shortfall.

Another council grant was then removed from the Westminster Pre-School Learning Alliance, forcing it to close its main office which supports nine pre-schools in the borough including Parkview Lodge.

The school was then told its rent would increase from a peppercorn rent to �10,000 per year, phased in over five years – a sum the pre-school says it cannot come close to affording.

To top off the bad news it was then warned that if it couldn’t agree to the new lease “shortly”, the offer would be withdrawn and Westminster Council would “seek vacant possession”.

Manager Carol Lewis said: “It would be heartbreaking if we had to go.

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“People rely on us and we don’t have any money to pay redundancies.”

The pre-school has been located at its present home since 1998 and caters for almost 40 children aged two to five.

It has been forced to increase fees from September with part-time fees increasing from �45 per week to �75 and full-time fees rising from �100 to �160.

But even with the fees rise, the pre-school says it will be unable to pay the first year’s increased rent of �4,000, let alone the eventual sum of �10,000.

Laura Brown has a three-year-old son at Parkview Lodge and is chairman of the parent committee.

She said: “It shocks me that a little gem like this can be treated so terribly.

‘‘They have put a lot of pressure on us to sign the lease and I am the one who is being asked to be responsible for �10,000.

“This is the only affordable childcare in the area and the women who run it are the most amazing people.”

Almost 250 people have signed a petition calling on the council to “reinstate the grant to the Westminster Pre-school Learning Alliance nurseries” and “allow the nurseries time to financially prepare” for the cuts.

A Westminster Council spokesman said: “Parkview Lodge was previously on a peppercorn rent which reflected the investment the nursery made from its National Lottery grant.

“Now that this has ended, we are working with the nursery on their business plans and advising them on how they can become more financially independent for the future.”