There is no question that the council faces major financial challenges over the next few years. This is caused in the main by Westminster imposed cuts combined with the declining population in Argyll & Bute. To make matters worse, much of the rest of Scotland’s population is increasing and since the distribution of funds to councils is in part based on population, Argyll & Bute is particularly badly hit.
I plan to identify those elements of the proposed cuts which I think are particularly problematic and will do this over the next week to 10 days. On Wednesday 7th I referred to the £3m+ that is shown as an option to be taken from the childcare budget. I want to give a bit more detail on this now.
In this blog, I want to look at the huge cuts to the early years childcare budgets. In the papers for the council’s policy and resources meeting on Thursday 8 October, there is a range of options and the full list can be seen at this link.
Taken from this, here are the proposed cuts to the early years budgets over the next few years:
- Reduce level of support available to the council and providers of Early Learning and Childcare. Total cuts of £1.659m
- Withdraw 3% annual increase in payments to commissioned providers. Total cuts of £205k
- Withdraw early years third sector grants and services. Total cuts of £457k
- Remove early years change fund. Total cuts of £180k
- Withdraw services that the council is not required to provide for children under 5. Total cuts of £849k
The total to be taken from this section of the budget over the next few years comes to £3.35m. Having been denied access to the detailed information on the effects of all of the proposals, I am not in a position to say what the consequences are of this so I have asked the officers to tell me. I will publish the reply when I get it.
What I also can’t say is if these cuts will be equally spread, for example will council childcare facilities take the same share of cuts as non council childcare providers?
Be in no doubt, though, that taking over £3m out of the childcare budget will have severe effects. It will almost certainly mean an increase in fees charged to parents by the non council providers and it may lead to a reduction in child care places. I will be in a better place to comment once I heard back from officers.