Northamptonshire slashes early years funding

Northamptonshire county council has gone ahead with its proposed cuts to funding supplements paid to providers.

Following a vote of the Schools Forum on Friday, the council announced it would be removing the SEN supplement paid to early years providers and reducing the notional SEN supplement by 12p, meaning settings will receive just 2p an hour. It is also making changes to the formula for the quality supplement – Ofsted outstanding will no longer be a factor.

On top of this, there will also be a 30 per cent reduction to the council’s early years central budget costs – as voted for by providers on the Schools Forum.

All the changes were effective from yesterday (1 April).

Sam Evans, owner of Little Learners Childcare, a group of two settings, said the move by the council to cut and reduce supplements will see her lose £4,000 a month.

Last month, Northamptonshire County Council put forward five proposals to make savings of £1.8 million to its early years budget after spending more than what it received from the Government for 2018-2019.

Following suggestions from its Schools Forum to reduce the SEN notional supplement, the council postponed making a decision and asked the Department for Education for an extension. However, the Department denied the council an extension.

Nursery schools

Among its cost-saving measures, the council proposed dropping nursery schools’ funding to put rates back in line with grant funding.

It also said it needs to claw back money from nursery schools for the last financial year, as well the previous one, totalling more than £300,000, after paying the settings more than the funding it received from Government.

The council will now review funding for its nursery schools next month.

A spokesperson for Northamptonshire County Council said, ‘This has been a difficult decision which has been necessary to ensure that the budget is balanced for next year.’

The council also said it is ‘working to remove all reference to the wording "free entitlement" from any promotion and publication materials'. It envisages this will be completed the by the end of next month at the latest.

‘The DfE and county council need to find a solution’, says NDNA

The NDNA said it now has ‘real worries’ about how the council plans to meet its duty to pass through 95 per cent of the funding it receives from Government to providers.

Chief executive Purnima Tanuku said, ‘We have serious concerns about the funding situation in Northamptonshire.

‘This issue with nurseries has been going on for too long now and cash flow is a major issue for any business. Nurseries not being paid what they are owed on time is a serious threat to their sustainability. We are aware of underpayments for member nurseries going back two years.

‘NDNA has been speaking to the DfE about this situation, but the DfE and council need to find a solution that gives reassurance to children and families in Northamptonshire and does not leave providers there out of pocket.’

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said, 'This announcement will be disastrous for some of the most vulnerable children in Northamptonshire. And it will heap even more pressure on providers who were already struggling to stay afloat at a time of frozen funding rates and rising costs. The local authority’s financial struggles are well documented but there’s no doubt ministers must share the blame here because it is their continued refusal to increase funding has made every last penny providers receive from local authorities absolutely essential. 

'This situation shows how far Government action has moved away from its rhetoric on social mobility. Government cannot claim on the one hand it wants to narrow the attainment gap while, on the other, remain a bystander while providers in areas of deprivation close their doors, and local authority SEND budgets reduce to a handful of pennies per child.  We will only see more local authorities forced to take such decisions, and this leaves the government with a simple choice: either they act now to increase early years funding or continue to do nothing and effectively wipe their hands of the country’s youngest and most vulnerable children.'

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