Nursery fees to rise by 5% in Salford as councillors agree increase

A full week’s care for a child up to the age of two will go up £9.47 to £198.98 at the local authority run providers.

The cost of nursery child care for working families in Salford is to rise by 5% from September.

Councillors on the city council’s cabinet voted for the first rise in such costs since April 2019 when fees also rose by 5%.

But the cost of child care in Salford’s five local authority nurseries is still lower than the private providers in the city, said director of adult and children’s services Charlotte Ramsden.

A full week’s care for a child up to the age of two will go up £9.47 to £198.98; for two to three-year-olds it will rise by £9.13 to £191.63 and for those aged three and above it will go up by £8.80 to £184.80.

Based on a 75 % take-up of nursery places the move will generate an extra £66,165 for the local authority coffers.

The increased revenue would also enable to reduce the level of financial support from the local authority to its nurseries.

A nursery school Credit: via LDRS

But cabinet members were told that on top of a £1.5 million subsidy a year,  additional funds of nearly £500,000 have had to be provided over the last three years because of low occupancy levels – partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Councillors rejected an alternative option to increase the fees in line with the retail price index (RPI) by 8.41 per cent.

Assistant director of adult and children’s services Cathy Starbuck said Salford’s occupation rates were “below what we have budgeted for”.

“We are doing what we can to increase the uptake in our nurseries,” she said.

Councillor Jim Cammell said he thought it was important to make sure families who are impacted by the increase would be given “appropriate support by officers on the council”.

“The key to reducing the subsidy from the council is to increase occupancy,” he said.

Coun Jack Youd said he feared the increased rates could drive down the number of families relying on nurseries.

“If that happens,” he said. “It might cost more to implement the increase than we would gain in revenue.”

Ms Ramsden countered that past increases in the fees had not resulted in reduced occupancy of nurseries.

Coun Bill Hinds said the 5% increase was “the better of the two options” on the table.

It was suggested that more might be done to market the authority’s nurseries in a bid to drive up the number of families using them.

Ms Ramsden said: “We’ve got many successful private nurseries in our city. We are working really hard to advertise them and families are aware of our local authority nurseries.”

She said there would be a social media campaign led by the council’s communications team set in motion.

Average nursery fees across Great Britain average at £252.07 for those under the age of two, the cabinet was told. In the North West the average is  £214.37 and in Salford, it is £203.

“We are confident our prices are still lower than the private nurseries that are around,” she said. “But it is important to maintain the quality level of our nurseries. The majority of people using our nurseries get free places [because of their circumstances].”

Councillor Shamina August said it was important to assess what impact the increase would have on people “living in the most desperate circumstances”.

The cabinet agreed to the 5% increase and to a report to be tabled before Christmas on efforts to increase nursery occupancy levels.