Children's nursery in Northampton owed £93,000 in underpayments by county council

Home from Home is being underpaid by 43p per child per hour.
Home from Home is being underpaid by 43p per child per hour.

The owner of a group of nurseries in Northampton has said the county council payment system for disadvantaged children is "in chaos".

The money relates to Early Years Funding which is distributed on behalf of the Government by Northamptonshire County Council.

But transfers of the correct amounts have proven highly erratic, prompting Sharon Muldoon who was then assistant director of performance, to meet with representatives of 50 nurseries in August and promise action within days.

But more than five months later, the underpayments for some nurseries have continued to mount. Home from Home, which runs nurseries in Spencer Parade, St Georges Avenue and Crow Lane in Great Billing is owed £93,000.

Owner Maria Botterill Barnes said: "It's a crippling amount of money. It's almost a 12-month turnover

"We contacted the county council about this four months ago and we have had no response or explanation whatsoever.

"It could have closed a less successful company down."

Early Years Funding is extra money paid to nurseries for taking on two and three-year-olds who are from economically disadvantaged households.

Home from Home, which also has nurseries in Great Houghton and Kislingbury, has calculated it has been underpaid by 43p per eligible child per hour.

It comes after similar payment issues two years ago saw Home from Home owed £10,000, which was not settled for seven months.

Mrs Botterill Barnes said: "The grant system is chaos.

"They really don't need to put this pressure on nurseries.

"I can't tell you how anxious it makes you."

Following an approach to the council by the Chron, an emailed letter was sent out by Mrs Muldoon - who is now the acting director of Children First Northamptonshire - to affected nurseries, which promises a swift resolution to the matter.

A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said: “We are in liaison with the nursery provider in question and are working to resolve the queries.”

“Significant work is taking place to resolve the ongoing issues with the provision of Early Years Funding and the majority of historic issues have largely been resolved.”