Fife nurseries fear for future over council funding gap

Private nurseries in Fife have warned that the level of funding they get from the region's council might lead to them having to close.

Thursday, 22nd November 2018, 2:08 pm
Updated Thursday, 22nd November 2018, 3:14 pm

Several businesses have expressed concerns that the £4.40 rate provided by Fife Council is not enough to cover costs of caring for children.

And they fear this could lead to closures.

The local authority expects private nurseries to provide 20 per cent of care for children once the Scottish Government’s 1140-hour policy comes in in 2020.

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But several nurseries have expressed concerns they may no longer be operating by then.

Linda Fraser, who runs the long-established Sunshine Nursery in Kirkcaldy and Glenrothes, charges £5.50 per hour – and said the council didn’t take into account nursery operating costs when it calculated its figures.

She added: “How the current Government expects private nursery schools to pay staff the living wage and contribute to the government pension scheme as well as providing high-quality child care at the ludicrous rate of £4.40 per hour evades me.

“The private sector has been placed between a rock and a hard place as parents require the funding to reduce their childcare costs. If we don’t join, we have no customers, and if we do, it is just the slower route to bankruptcy.”

Irene Tudor, from Smart Cookies Childcare in Falkland, said: “I have huge concerns about what is currently happening both in council provision and in the private nursery sector, and what it means for the future. I am also dismayed by how few partner providers seem really interested.”

Laura Stewart, manager at First Class Childcare in Burntisland, said: “Our big concern is the fact Fife Council sends a lump sum payment six weeks, often later, after the beginning of each term and we have staff to pay as well as all other outgoings.

“If the same system is in place for 1140 hours, how do they propose we run our nurseries until receiving that payment?”

At recent area committee meetings, Clark Graham, early years workforce development co-ordinator, confirmed that he would expect any private nursery to pay staff the living wage of £8.75 per hour.

Councillor Kathleen Leslie, Conservative education spokesperson, said: “How does the council expect partner nurseries to pay their staff when there is such a shortfall in funding?”

Shelagh McLean, head of service for the authority, said: ““We continue to value highly the work delivered in partnership with both private and voluntary sector services and this will be extended to meet the 1140 commitment across Fife.”