I asked two questions at full council last night, the second flagging up a parent’s concern:
(6) Question from Councillor James Courtenay to the Executive Councillor for Children and Learning
Can the Executive Councillor for Children and Learning comment upon increases in child care costs through the network of children centres and say what is causing these increases?
Answer from Mark Flewitt:
Thank you for your question. I am aware that there has been a letter to parents from theBlenheim School about the proposed increases to child care costs at the children’s centre. I am at this point in time unaware of any price increases elsewhere.
As an Authority we have encouraged all Children’s Centres to keep their prices for child care as affordable as possible to ensure the best possible access for families. The Childcare Act places a duty on the Local Authority to secure affordable childcare of high quality.
Even with the price increase, Blenheim remains cheaper on all price ranges from 0-4 than private local provision.
Clearly any price increase is difficult for families in the current climate. The head teacher acknowledged this in a letter to parents.
Whilst the details behind the increase are a matter for the Centre and not the Council, some of the increase is likely to be attributable to the increases in such things at utilities, and the new national training requirements for staff. Centres based in schools have tighter margins due to the terms and conditions of staff.
Additionally, where a children’s centre has chosen to keep their dedicated qualified teaching capacity this will have caused some pressure on their budgets, since the funding for this was removed last year when the national requirement for a qualified teacher to be available at each centre was removed.
I went on to ask him: “Will the Executive Councillor monitor the price increase situation and do what he can to ensure that hard working families are not asked to pay more than is necessary?”
He assured me that he would monitor the price increases and said that the council would do what it could to assist.