Spring Budget 2017: Chancellor accused of 'ignoring' early years sector in favour of pubs

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Nursery owners have accused Chancellor Philip Hammond of prioritising support for pubs over nurseries, as he announced plans to offer some business rate relief in his Spring Budget speech.

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The Chancellor singled out pubs for business rate relief in his Spring Budget speech

Acknowledging widespread concern about the revaluation of business rates from April, the Chancellor announced measures including a £1,000 discount on business rates for all pubs with a ratable value of less than a £100,000, which he said would support around 90 per cent of them.

Any business coming out of small business rate relief would also benefit from a cap that would mean that their rates will not rise by more than £50 a month, he said in the Spring Budget today.

The National Day Nurseries Association, which is campaigning for nurseries to receive full rates relief due to the 'social good' they provide through early education for children and supporting parents to work, said it was ‘extremely disappointed’ that nurseries had been ignored.

The NDNA said that because nurseries tended to operate in large buildings with outdoor areas most would not qualify.

Purnima Tanuku chief executive of the NDNA, said, ‘We are extremely disappointed that the Chancellor chose to ignore the plight of nurseries in his Budget speech today, instead supporting local pubs.

‘This does not fit with his comments that central to this Government’s values is that every child should have the opportunity to fulfil his or her potential.

‘Nursery businesses are particularly badly affected by the rates revaluation because they tend to be in larger properties with plenty of outdoor space for children to play.

'So their business rates tend to be proportionally higher compared to the size of their businesses, with the average rateable value in the UK being about £20,000. Most won’t benefit from his £50 increase cap for businesses coming out of the relief threshold.’

The Chancellor also announced that the Government would provide local authorities in England with £300m of discretionary relief, to allow them to provide support for individual hard cases in their local area, but Ms Tanuku said, that while the extra money was a positive step there was no guarantee that this would keep any nurseries sustainable.

‘Yet again the Government is passing the buck to local authorities,’ she said. ‘We would urge councils to priorities childcare businesses for this support to make sure there are enough nursery places for 30 hours free childcare.’

Cheryl Hadland, founder of Tops Day Nurseries, which runs 17 nurseries in the south of England, led a protest outside Bournemouth Borough Council last night to call on the local authority to offer business rate relief to day nurseries and pre-schools.

'It is disappointing that the Chancellor has prioritised business rate relief on pubs, rather than nurseries that educate and grow the life chances of young children,' she said. 'We welcome the upcoming rollout of the 30 hours funded childcare and education, as well as increases in Living Wage for our brilliant staff, but we are facing many financial difficulties that threaten our long term sustainability.
 
'The Chancellor has given local authorities more money for local business rate relief, and we are calling on councils across the country to use these funds to ensure nurseries remain able to deliver high quality childcare and support parents into work.'

Courteney Donaldson, head of childcare and education at Christie & Co, said, 'This Budget was a lost opportunity for the Chancellor to reward and demonstrate his appreciation for the childcare sector in these tentative times preceding the Government's intended introduction of 30hrs childcare.' 

Early years organisations said they were disappointed that there was no more money to tackle underfunding of early years places for three- and four-year-olds, particularly with 30 hour childcare for working parents just months away.

The Pre-school Learning Alliance said it was ‘incredibly disappointing’ that ‘the Chancellor's brief reference to childcare’ had no mention of ‘the critical issue of early years funding’.  

‘With just six months to go until the rollout of the 30 hour so-called "free childcare” offer, the Government simply cannot continue to ignore the very valid concerns about the viability of the scheme that have been raised.

‘The fact that after months of telling the sector that there simply is no more money available, the Government has managed to find £320 million for new free schools and grammars only adds insult to injury. All the research shows that the early years play the most vital role when it comes to improving life chances. If the government is genuinely committed to social mobility, it should invest its money where it would be most effective.

‘The extended entitlement offer was a key Conservative manifesto pledge to families, and yet, with more and more childcare providers looking to limit the funded places they will offer – or in some cases, pull out of the scheme altogether – it’s looking increasingly likely that many parents expecting to benefit in September will be left disappointed.’       

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