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Parents hit out at Hackney Council's 'enormous' increase in nursery fees for high-earning families

PUBLISHED: 13:06 07 May 2019 | UPDATED: 22:13 07 May 2019

Parents and children outside the Ann Tayler nursery in Triangle Road, London Fields. They say they are being hit with 'enormous' fee hikes. Picture: Polly Hancock

Parents and children outside the Ann Tayler nursery in Triangle Road, London Fields. They say they are being hit with 'enormous' fee hikes. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

Parents have hit out at the council for raising nursery fees by up to 65 per cent - but the town hall says they will make childcare affordable for low-income families.

Jonathan Allen. Picture: Polly HancockJonathan Allen. Picture: Polly Hancock

As it stands, the council subsidises childcare for 627 children to the tune of £6million plus a year. The places are open to all families, regardless of income, but are means tested.

The test is based on three bands, created in 2008 when Hackney had the highest levels of deprivation in England and educational outcomes well below average. The highest current band is for families earning more than £55,000 a year, and sees them paying less than half of what it costs to provide some childcare

The council says if it is to keep subsidising the places in the wake of huge government cuts, it needs to change the "outdated" bands by creating a five-tier structure and therefore charge high-earning families more. The plans were agreed by the cabinet last week, but hikes of up to 65 per cent for families earning north of £100,000 a year have not gone down well.

Jonathan Allen, a teacher who has two children at Ann Tayler, a nursery in London Fields, says it will be a "educational financial and social disaster".

Parents and children outside the Ann Tayler nursery in Triangle Road, London Fields. Picture: Polly HancockParents and children outside the Ann Tayler nursery in Triangle Road, London Fields. Picture: Polly Hancock

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"It's an enormous increase," he told the Gazette. "About £6,000 more a year, and we are only just touching the threshold [of £100,000]. Like many families in Hackney we are only just managing to make it. At best this is unrealistic and at worst it is an awful policy."

To make matters worse, Jonathan says the families were told nothing about it until last month, despite a year-long review.

"Why at no stage has anyone been made aware?" he said. "It's extraordinary nothing was mentioned in September at the start of the school year."

The council insists the changes are designed to protect subsidised fees for families who may otherwise struggle to pay for childcare. The new first band would be for those earning below the average London salary of £34,000, and would include a subsidy of 63.5pc of the cost.

Town hall children's chief Cllr Chris Kennedy said: "I understand this will lead to a significant increase in fees for some, but with pressure on our budgets, we have few choices to allow us to increase accessibility to affordable childcare and make savings needed within our budget."

Cllr Kennedy said a wide-ranging review into children's centres would start later this year.

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