Northamptonshire nurseries having to up fees to keep their businesses going after budget cut

Every childminder and nursery provider in the county has had their funding cut.
Every childminder and nursery provider in the county has had their funding cut.

Northamptonshire nurseries are having to increase hourly rates and ask for voluntary contributions from parents in a bid to keep their businesses open after their funding was cut.

Nurseries from all across the county are now asking families to pay more for childcare for their under-fives after a cut from central government which will see £1.5m taken from the early years budget in Northamptonshire.

The reduction, which was approved last week by the county council, comes after 18 months of payment fiasco within the sector, with the county council making a series of wrong payments and owing hundreds of nurseries thousands of pounds.

Sharon Forster and Kay Lines have run the Vicarage Farm Pre School in Wellingborough for the past 15 years and Sharon said this is the worst situation she has ever known during her childcare career.

The nursery is set to lose 22p per hour per child and yesterday sent home a letter to all parents asking them to make up the shortfall which will cost the nursery £4,000 per year. This will take the daily charge for snacks and consumables up from £1.25 for a six hour session to £2.57.

Sharon said: “One parent has told us that they think they are paying enough already and another two have been supportive.

“We have not broken even from September last year. I feel like the council has treated the early years providers appallingly.”

Emma Serdert owns the Oakey Dokey nursery in Danesholme, Corby, and 85 per cent of her 135 under-fives have fully funded childcare. She faces a cut which will equate to £1,400 per month and she says she will have to try to recoup this cost from parents, but this will not be easy because of the financial situation of some. It is also not something she is comfortable with doing.

She said: “My business will suffer because of this funding reduction and if I do not start to charge for consumables then I will have to reduce resources.

“The past two years have been an absolute logistical nightmare and I have had to fight for payment for children who have not been recognised on the council’s system. These decisions are being made by people who are not at the coalface and who are not aware of what it takes to run a nursery.”

All settings will have the SEN supplement reduced from 14p to 2p and there will also be a reduction in the quality supplement and the 53p hourly SEN supplement for high needs will be removed.

A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said: “The amount of children qualifying for early years funding in Northamptonshire has reduced, which has been reflected in reduced funding through the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG).

“Due to this reduced grant funding from central government, spending on early years in Northamptonshire will be heading for a £1.8m overspend in the next financial year if changes are not made.

“The proposals approved on Friday put payments to providers back in line with their grant funding and reduces the central expenditure of NCC costs, including support to the sector.

“The council understands these are very difficult decisions and continues to work alongside providers of early years setting to minimise the potential impact.”

There are currently 600 early years providers looking after and educating more than 10,485 under-fives in the county. The large majority of settings are graded as good or outstanding.