While local authorities have the flexibility to offer businesses discounts on business rates, Nursery World understands that Harrogate Borough Council is one of the first local authorities in England to offer reductions to nurseries. For councils that do offer discounts, the Government pays 50 per cent of the costs.
It is a big win for childcare providers in Harrogate, as nurseries across England face a 26 per cent increase in business rates. Analysis commissioned by the Press Association from business rent and rate specialists CVS last year, revealed business rates will rise to £110.72m per year, adding up to a total property tax bill for nurseries and pre-schools over five years of £553.6m by 2022.
Childcare providers in Harrogate must meet the following criteria to be eligible for a 50 per cent reduction in rates:
- Provide care for 10 or more children under the age of eight
- Open from at least 8am-5pm Monday to Friday
- Ofsted registered
- Accept childcare vouchers as payment
- Deliver the 30 hours of funded childcare
The move by Harrogate Borough Council follows a renewed call from nurseries for the Government to scrap business rates for childcare providers. A petition has been started by Hocus Pocus Day Nursery in Bolton on the UK Government and Parliament website, which currently has 1,618 signatures.
A previous petition, which also called for an end to business rates for nurseries and VAT, set-up by a different nursery owner, gathered 5,853 signatures. The petition closed in March as parliamentary petitions are only open for six months.
One of the members of the local providers’ group in Harrogate, Bruce Warnes, owner of Sunflowers Day Nursery (pictured), said, ‘We are delighted that the council has taken our position on board and introduced a business rate relief of 50 per cent that early years setting can apply for.
‘Money saved on things like business rates is money that we can put towards keeping the level of quality and outcomes that our children deserve.
‘I know this [lobbying] has been tried by providers in different areas without success so we are very fortunate.
‘I’m actually not applying for this for my own setting this year, we are in a rural area and Harrogate Borough Council already recognise our really important role though some fairly generous rural reliefs, but I’m glad that taking a bit of collective action has helped others - there’s definitely a big potential benefit when we can work together. I’d urge anyone to get together and try this locally as well as supporting the national campaign for business rates relief.’
A spokesman for Harrogate Borough Council said, ‘We recognise the benefit to local communities of childcare providers which enable parents to work to support family life and the local economy.
‘We are pleased to be able to offer this discretionary reduction in business rates which we hope will be of benefit to providers across the Harrogate district.’
National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), which has been campaigning for business rates relief for nurseries, said it hoped more local authorities in England would follow suit.
Its chief executive Purnima Tanuku, said, ‘This is good news and long awaited.
‘NDNA has been lobbying for nurseries to receive business rates relief for a number of years now. We have had success in Scotland where nurseries are now exempt from paying business rates and in Wales, many more nurseries are being given rates relief.
‘We hope that more local authorities in England will follow suit. NDNA highlighted in our annual survey report this month that business rates are a huge cost. We urged the Government to give full business rates relief to all nurseries so they would not have to pass this growing cost onto parents in the form of higher fees.’