Fees for Little Owls nurseries in Leeds rise

Leeds Civic Hall.
Leeds Civic Hall. Photo: John Baron/westleedsdispatch.com

By David Spereall, local democracy reporting service

Parents using council-run nurseries in Leeds are having to pay an extra five per cent in fees from this month.

The full daily rate for childcare at the authority’s 28 Little Owls Nurseries across the city has risen from £49.20 to £51.70, from September 1.

A Leeds City Council notice explaining the move said it would cover a rise in costs, but would “not put the entire burden on parents”.

The increase is also designed to help fees keep pace with nurseries in the private sector.

Around a tenth of the 2,900 families who use Little Owls pay the full daily rate, though most of those parents are entitled to up to 30 hours free childcare a week.

Universal Credit claimants and working parents can also claim for discounts on the fees.

However, there are concerns that spiralling fees across childcare as a whole are piling more pressure on parents during the cost-of-living crisis.

Rising energy bills, the need to pay staff more to account for inflation and a staff shortage generally are among the issues affecting nurseries.

Joanna Corfield, from the parents’ charity The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) said: “Childcare is a huge expense and if prices continue to rise, it will become increasingly unaffordable for parents.

“The government needs to look at what can be done to help working families to ensure that they are not pushed out of the job market due to the cost of childcare.”

In July, Leeds City Council leader James Lewis and his Cabinet colleague Fiona Venner (Lab, Kirkstall) lobbied the government to backtrack over plans to relax certain rules for childminders and nurseries.

Ministers plan to change the ratio of responsible adults to two years-olds to 1:5, up from its current ratio of 1:4.

In a letter to then children’s minister Will Quince, Councillors Lewis and Venner claimed the plan would compromise child safety and drive staff away from the sector.

However, Mr Quince left the government just a day after the letter was written, as part of a wave of resignations in protest at Boris Johnson’s leadership.


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