OUTCRY FORCES RE­THINK ON HIKE IN CHILD CARE

Coun­cil chief ‘troubled’ rise in fees will drive par­ents into hard­ship

Evening Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY STE­WART PATER­SON

A PRO­POSED hike in nurs­ery fees is be­ing re­con­sid­ered fol­low­ing an outcry from par­ents and cam­paign­ers.

The ed­u­ca­tion and early years con­vener for Glas­gow City Coun­cil said he was un­com­fort­able with the “dif­fi­cult” sto­ries par­ents were shar­ing about meet­ing the higher cost.

THE SNP’s ed­u­ca­tion chief at Glas­gow City Coun­cil said he is look­ing again at the con­tro­ver­sial in­crease in nurs­ery fees.

Chris Cun­ning­ham, Ed­u­ca­tion and Early Years Con­vener, said he was not com­fort­able with the sto­ries from par­ents hav­ing to cope with large in­creases in their child­care costs.

Mr Cun­ning­ham said the coun­cil has al­ready acted to in­crease the in­come thresh­old for ad­di­tional free hours and said it was be­ing looked at fur­ther.

The de­ci­sion ear­lier this year to hike nurs­ery fees for un­der threes and for those who need ex­tra hours above the 600 hours free en­ti­tle­ment has at­tracted wide­spread crit­i­cism.

The fees were hiked from £2.54 an hour to £4 this year with a fur­ther rise to £5 an hour planned for next year.

Par­ents have told of hav­ing to con­sider giv­ing up work­ing or re­duc­ing hours as a re­sult of the in­crease.

The outcry has led to every op­po­si­tion party at the coun­cil now op­posed to the in­crease.

This week, the Even­ing Times re­vealed the Green coun­cil­lors on the coun­cil were plan­ning to mount a chal­lenge by bring­ing for­ward a vote to stop the in­creases in time for the new term in Au­gust.

The Greens backed the bud­get in Fe­bru­ary, which in­cluded the child­care in­crease, but have since said it is caus­ing too many prob­lems for many fam­i­lies and needs to be halted.

Mr Cun­ning­ham de­clined to say if the de­ci­sion to look again at the in­creases was re­lated to the Green move.

He said an in­crease was nec­es­sary to move to­wards dou­bling the num­ber of free hours in two years time but de­nied it was to raise cash to plug a wider coun­cil bud­get gap.

The Even­ing Times re­ported how ed­u­ca­tion

I can un­der­stand why peo­ple are say­ing what they say

direc­tor Mau­reen McKenna, had writ­ten to a par­ent telling her that” in­come to be gen­er­ated from the fee in­crease is be­ing used to con­trib­ute to­wards meet­ing the fund­ing gap in the Coun­cil’s bud­get for fi­nan­cial year 2018/19.”

Mr Cun­ning­ham said in­stead it was about the wider ser­vice.

He said: “Did we raise the fees to meet a bud­get gap? No. This is not about sim­ply rais­ing money, it’s about the sec­tor as a whole.

“Pri­vate nurs­eries are mak­ing a pitch for ex­tra fund­ing be­cause there is a prob­lem if the coun­cil un­der­cuts them. We are not rais­ing £1.2m to plug a gap, we are do­ing it to change the sec­tor.”

How­ever, he ad­mit­ted there were prob­lems and ex­pressed a will­ing­ness to make changes to help par­ents.

He said: “Am I com­fort­able with where we are? No. The sto­ries are dif­fi­cult.

“It is al­ways prob­lem­atic to base pol­icy on anec­dote or in­di­vid­ual sto­ries but I can un­der­stand the cir­cum­stances peo­ple are in.

“It is not a com­fort­able sit­u­a­tion to be in.”

He said: “In the bud­get process we made some de­ci­sions. I stand by the need for re­struc­tur­ing. I am look­ing at the sit­u­a­tion.

“I can un­der­stand why peo­ple are say­ing what they say. It is some­thing we are look­ing at.”

He re­stated the mea­sures al­ready put in place to help par­ents deal with the in­crease.

He added: “We have raised the thresh­old (for an ex­tra 300 hours) to £30,000 from £25,000. Am I look­ing at it fur­ther? Yes.”

Mr Cun­ning­ham wasn’t ed­u­ca­tion con­vener or even ed­u­ca­tion spokesman at the time of the elec­tion.

He added: “The bud­get has to ad­dress a range of is­sues. De­ci­sions have to be made that were not is­sues at the time of the elec­tion.”

Par­ents have ex­pressed dis­may at the pro­posed in­crease in child care fees

Top, Chris Cun­ning­ham, above, First Min­siter Nicola Stur­geon meets nurs­ery kids, and right, Mau­reen McKenna, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of ed­u­ca­tion for Glas­gow City Coun­cil

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