New government childcare scheme rejected for Harrogate nursery

A national initiative to increase the amount of free childcare hours has been rejected to maintain provision at a council-run nursery.

Friday, 8th September 2017, 5:49 pm
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 1:00 pm
The decision onCoppice Valley Nursery was made yesterday (Thursday, September 7) by Harrogate Borough Council

The decision on Coppice Valley Nursery was made yesterday (Thursday, September 7) at a Harrogate Borough Council Cabinet Member for Culture, Tourism and Sport meeting.

It follows the introduction this month of a national scheme to offer 30 free hours of child care for all working parents with three to four year old children who earn less than £100,000, double the amount previously offered.

Facing a potential loss of income of more than £20,000, calculated against the the current level of use at the nursery of 28 children, the council has said it was a difficult but necessary decision to continue offering the service.

Cabinet Member for Culture, Tourism and Sport, Coun Stanley Lumley said: "It was a difficult decision. This is a government initiative and it is a good idea, but we have to be conscious of tax payers money and we have to be able to find a balance so we can continue provision of what is a wonderful nursery."

He added: “We are extremely proud of the childcare service provided by Coppice Valley Nursery and whilst we would have liked to have implemented this scheme, we have been unable to do so due to the financial implications.

"It is good that the Government have introduced a new scheme for increased hours of childcare with more funding attached to it. However, it is our assessment because we only operate small scale facilities that this will lead to an increase in costs for the council and therefore the Council Tax payer.

"The Borough Council is not primarily a care provider for children. But we do want to work with parents who currently use our nursery to help them move over to a larger private provider offering the new Government scheme if they are able to find one. We will help them to do so in a way that supports them and their child while also representing the interests of the Council Tax payer in respect of these facilities.

"We understand the importance of free childcare for working families and we are committed to maintaining the existing 15 hours of free education and care per week that we currently provide for three and four year old children.

"We have not taken this decision lightly and have considered all of the options. Like all other nurseries in the United Kingdom, we need to consider the impact of providing a service which would incur a financial loss. We understand the disappointment this decision may bring, but it is the only way forward to protect the current service we are able to provide.”

A pilot version of the scheme was originally launched in February last year, 25 areas including York were part of this initial testing.

Following on from this the government released a white paper which increased restrictions around the offer, providers were not allowed to charge for food and other items such as arts and craft supplies.

North Yorkshire County Council launched the scheme regionally in April this year before the national roll out on September, 1.

The county council receives £4.20 per funded child for an hour, retaining 30p of this for administration costs. The remaining amount, £3.90 going to the provider.

Parents who get 15 hours of free child care can apply to increase the amount of hours they have to 30 hours, or split these hours over several providers.