Petition to scrap business rates for nurseries reaches Scottish Parliament

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A petition to scrap or freeze business rates for nursery premises has been heard by MSPs.

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Nurseries are facing up to 70 per cent hikes in business rates

National Day Nurseries Association network chair Stephanie Dodds organised the petition and submitted it to Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee, saying that soaring rates would lead to increased fees for parents and could even put some nurseries out of business.

The Public Petitions Committee has now committed to consult the Scottish government, local authorities, childcare organisations and parenting groups about the issue.

The petition received nearly 2,500 signatures.

Ms Dodds, of the East and Midlothian network, highlighted the effects of recent business revaluations that took place in April.

While a number of types of business premises are covered by a transitional rates relief, including hotels, restaurants, pubs and nightclubs, no such relief has been granted for nurseries.

Nurseries in Dundee and Aberdeen are facing increases of around 50 per cent, while in Edinburgh, increases could be 70 per cent or more, Ms Dodds told the committee.

One nursery in Renfrewshire was said to be facing a 215 per cent rise, while in Edinburgh the highest increase is 147 per cent.

‘A key issue for nurseries, like all small businesses, is balancing our books so we can deliver high-quality childcare, whilst remaining sustainable and keeping fees affordable for parents,’ Ms Dodds said.

‘Many private nurseries are facing financial crises as a result of rising business rates coupled with chronic underfunding.’

Claire Schofield, director of policy, membership and communications at NDNA, said, ‘It’s a cost pressure that has to be passed on to parents, and when we are looking at expansion to 1,140 hours [the annual free childcare entitlement for parents in Scotland due to commence in 2020] it is actually going to make it that much harder for nurseries to get involved in that and remain viable.’

Chair of the committee Johann Lamont MSP said in response to Ms Dodds and Ms Schofield, ‘I think you have made a very strong case in terms of the issues facing childcare and the importance of childcare. I am curious as to why transitional relief included pubs and bed and breakfasts but not nurseries.’

Mr Lamont added that the committee was willing to ‘explore this a little further’.

The committee agreed to contact the Scottish government, councils, the union Voice and Parenting Across Scotland for more information and views on the issue.

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