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Consumers and nursery vouchers

I was disappointed to read your inaccurate piece on the Scottish Consumer Council (TESS, May 3). You wrongly stated that the SCC praised the nursery voucher initiative. In fact, we quite clearly made the case that the proposals could represent one way of increasing provision but that, as they stood, they were not in the consumer interest.

Our position is that, if a nursery voucher scheme is to go ahead, it should contain certain features which safeguard the interests of families wishing to take up a pre-school place.

At present these features, for example, a proper assessment of what is a realistic value for vouchers, the ability of local authorities to operate on an equal footing with private providers and safeguards against provider failure, are absent from the Bill.

You might also wish to clarify our role which seems to have been misunderstood in your article. As you rightly say, the council is not a membership organisation and therefore does not claim to be representative of consumers. Our role is rather to ensure that policy makers have an understanding of the consumer interest when making decisions, a role which we fulfil by careful research since persuasion is the only power we have.

DEIDRE HUTTON Chairman Scottish Consumer Council Royal Exchange House 100 Queen Street Glasgow

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