Northamptonshire council: Early years protest forces budget re-think

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One Angel Square, Northamptonshire County Council HQ
Image caption,
The government says the council's children's services is failing to perform "to an adequate standard"

A cash-strapped council which faced a backlash from childminders over budget cuts will ask the government for more time to balance its books.

Northamptonshire County Council wanted to cut £1.8m from its £45m early years budget - but care providers warned the loss of subsidies could put them under.

It will now miss its 31 March deadline as it reworks its budget.

Sharon Muldoon of the council said: "We should have done this before now, but we are where we are."

Addressing nurseries and childminders, the deputy director of children's services said: "Next year we will make sure we have a forward plan to avoid this scenario.

"We need to do this with you rather than just look at what works for us."

'We will close'

Providers had said the cuts would have hit the best and most qualified early years providers, as £1m of the total saving was being made to quality supplements.

These are top-up payments of 50p an hour added to the childminders' base rate of £3.66 per hour per child for three- to four-year-olds and £5.10 for two-year-olds.

Subsidies for children from deprived backgrounds and with special educational needs also faced the axe, said the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Care providers had believed the base rate would be increased to mitigate the loss of subsidy.

Sarah Brooking, of Parklands Nursery School in Northampton, said: "This proposal will close us. We have looked at our budget and if the quality supplement is taken away it will cost us £60,000 per year."

The authority will now look at other ways to save £1.8m from its budget, and expects to have overspent by £1.5m this financial year.

The problem is the latest in a series for the council's children's services department, which has been accused of failing children and was reviewed by children's commissioner Malcolm Newsam in November.

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