Northamptonshire nurseries will go under and staff will lose their jobs, early years providers have warned, as a £1.8m budget reduction will hit the sector from next week.
With just days to go before the start of the new financial year the 600 providers which look after more than 10,000 under-fives in the county are still not sure of what their new funding arrangements will be for next month.
The uncertainty comes on top of an 18-month payment fiasco in which hundreds of childminders and nurseries have been paid wrongly, with many being underpaid by thousands.
After a backlash earlier this month (March) against the proposed method of sharing out the funding cut across the different providers, the council, which sets the funding formula, said it would go back and look at different options.
At today’s (March 29) extraordinary meeting of the schools forum held at Nene Whitewater Centre in Northampton, a revised formula was discussed but the final decision will be made later this afternoon by the council’s director of children’s services Sally Hodges. The council has to let the Department for Education know of its formula within the next few days after the Government refused the council a time extension.
Nursery manager Rachel Hutchinson said the decisions were being made too late in the day.
She said: “You are going to bankrupt settings. We have had two weeks to get our heads around this.”
Lyndsey Barnett, who is head teacher of the two maintained nursery schools in Wellingborough, said the budget cut would put some nurseries into a negative balance.
She told the council’s officers at the meeting: “You have said today that you now want to establish a working group for the nursery settings. We have been trying to engage you in discussions for well over a year, and now just seems a little too late when many of the nursery schools will have to set deficit budgets for 2019-20. On these proposals both Croyland and Highfield will have an in-year deficit of over £70,000.”
Another head teacher of a maintained nursery school said budget reductions on such a scale would lead to service cuts.
The budget reductions are being imposed after a reduction from central Government . The original plan was to take away a quality supplement given to certain providers, but after this was agreed to be unfair the authority is now proposing to cut a special education needs supplement given to all staff as well as some budget savings from its central team.
The authority could have decided to make up the shortfall from government funding from other budgets but NCC senior officer Sharon Muldoon said £10m is to be taken from children’s services in Northamptonshire next year and that there is no additional money available.
The officer gave the providers a pledge that next year decisions would be made much earlier.
The council says there has been a £1.5m overspend this year in the early years budget.
After the meeting a number of providers said the effect of the cuts would be that there would most likely have to be staff losses in some nursery settings.