OUTCRY FORCES RETHINK ON HIKE IN CHILD CARE
Council chief ‘troubled’ rise in fees will drive parents into hardship
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