Leaders of Richmondshire District Council have been told their decision to offer private childcare operators business rates discounts amounted to “an absolute farce”.
The criticism from independent councillor Stuart Parsons came as the authority’s corporate board examined offering firms providing childcare for ten or more children under the age of eight a 50 per cent business rates discount.
The authority’s corporate board heard the Government had encouraged
local authorities to consider using their business rates local discounts powers
to support access to local high quality provision.
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Members were told changes to the provision of Government supported free childcare places had introduced challenges to providers to continue delivering services whilst offering the government pledge of 30 hours’ free childcare.
The meeting heard the discounts, which would be open to approved childcare providers open for at least 45 hours a week, would cost taxpayers in the district £13,900 annually.
The district council would fund 40 per cent of the relief, the county council ten per cent and the Government the remainder.
Cllr Parsons said the Government was simply offsetting its costs by making the district council pay for them, and highlighted the importance of business rates as by 2022 they would completely replace Government grants as a source of income for the authority.
He said: “All the childcare providers are saying central government does not fund them adequately for the provision they are expected to make. They are all stating the government is forcing them out of business. So the government comes up with a wheeze and makes us, yet again, pay for their tightness.
“These are not charities they are private businesses. By doing this we enter into the realm of just about every other business going.
“If you agree to this you’re preferring one sector of the economy, and that’s not free market economy which your party is supposed to support.”
He added the move followed a proposal backed by North Yorkshire council leaders to offer mobile network operators a business rates holiday on new masts in rural areas, which he said would open the floodgates for business relief requests.
The council’s leader, Councillor Yvonne Peacock said granting the relief would help keep childcare facilities open.
She said: “This is looking after the women who mostly have and look after the children.
“People need to get back to work. Sometimes it’s not always for financial gain, but to keep their career on track, and they need somewhere for their babies. They need good facilities to look after their babies and all that we can do to help keep these places going
“This is not necessarily about helping the private nurseries, but rather that it will keep them in business and their prices low enough so people can afford to send their children to it.”