Council to debate early years funds as Labour warns cash is being held

Gordon Jones: Picture: JAMES FLETCHER

Gordon Jones: Picture: JAMES FLETCHER - Credit: Archant

Conservative-controlled Suffolk County Council is preventing working families from getting the free childcare the government promised them by under-funding nurseries.

Labour education spokesman Jack Abbott. Picture: PAGEPIX LTD

Labour education spokesman Jack Abbott. Picture: PAGEPIX LTD - Credit: Archant

That's the claim from the opposition Labour group which has tabled a motion on early-years provision at this week's meeting of the authority.

Labour's education spokesman Jack Abbott said that as a result of under-funding early years providers, there was a severe shortage of free childcare places across the county – and especially in Ipswich.

The government said that all parents should be entitled to 30 hours of free childcare a week for pre-school children, but most providers could only offer up to 15 hours of free childcare, and they made a loss on that.

Mr Abbott said the government paid councils like Suffolk £4.41 an hour for childcare – and 93 per cent of that was supposed to be handed over to providers.

However Suffolk only paid £3.87 an hour – which is less than 88pc of what it receives from Whitehall.

He said: 'We don't think the government funding is adequate at all – but in Suffolk that is made worse by not passing on the money that the authority should.

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'It all means that the childcare the government says should be available simply isn't there – and families are suffering.'

The Labour motion calls for the council to lobby government to pay more for childcare – and demands that the council passes on the full hourly rate to providers.

The county insists that it pays more to providers because there are extra payments made in specific cases.

Cabinet member for young people Gordon Jones said: 'Suffolk is one of only 25pc of authorities to see a reduction in funding following the Early Years Funding Reform.

'However creatively we use this reduced funding, the unfortunate reality is that schools, nurseries, playgroups and childminders will see a reduction in funding.

'I have previously written to all Suffolk MPs to address my concerns on this matter as was mentioned in the debate at Westminster on October 12, and I have met with providers and MPs to discuss options for increasing the rate paid to providers in Suffolk. I will continue to lobby the government for fairer funding for children in Suffolk.'

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