Fife Council has been accused of unfairly targeting working families after increasing childcare rates by as much as 25 per cent without any prior warning.
The Fife authority, the largest suppilier of child care in the region, has increased all aspects of out of school care services, including breakfast clubs, creches, term time after school services and holiday care, with the new rates coming into force before many parents even received a lettter of confirmation.
What’s more, childcare services, which in 2016/17 generated an income of £2.48m for the council, have raised the late collection fee, charged to parents on a per 15 minute basis, by a staggering 43 per cent.
The move has been branded a “council cash-in” at the expense of working families by parents now facing the prospect of digging even deeper to meet the spiralling costs.
One parent, who has used the service for the last five years. said: “We’ve experienced nominal increases each year in line with inflation.
“But this latest rate hike just looks like a chance for the council to gather in more money and is a step too far,”
“This is Fife Council struggling to balance the books, hitting parents, who have no other childcare alternatives, in the pocket.
“There was no warning whatsoever and the new rates came into effect immediatly,
“It’s completely unacceptable.
“The intial move was to backdate the new charges to include the Easter holidays but thankfully the council has now stepped back from that.”
It’s understood the decision to raise charges was taken at a meeting on March 19 attended by joint administration leaders Cllrs David Ross and David Alexander.
Responding to the criticism, Shelagh McLean, head of service, education and children’s services said: “After-school clubs provide an excellent, affordable childcare service for families, which are widely used and highly valued.
“We have increased the costs for 2018-19 but this is necessary to reflect the rising costs of running such a service.
“As with all other services, we are constantly trying to provide the most efficient and effective service possible to reflect the budget pressures across the council.
“Although costs are rising, we provide great value for money for our local families and a vital after-school care service.”
There are a limited number of options for families to reduce childcare costs, including accessing childcare vouchers, if available, through an employer.
Alternatively, some families may be eligible for a Fifestyle Premier or Super card allowing for up to 15 per cent discount on council care.