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SNP admits childcare costs could rise by further £50m just weeks before policy is launched

4 Jun 2014

Gavin Brown MSP

The SNP has admitted the cost of their new childcare policy could cost up to an extra £50million – just eight weeks before it is launched.

Education Secretary Mike Russell has admitted he is “still negotiating” with COSLA over the capital costs of providing 600 hours of childcare for around 15,000 two-year-olds.

The Scottish Government has taken five months to admit the capital costs for implementing the policy will be at least £61million.

However, at today’s Finance Committee, Mr Russell indicated there was “no inflexibility” on this Scottish Government estimate and would “not rule out a different figure at the end of the day”.

COSLA has estimated the actual cost could actually be as high as £114million.

They believe the Scottish Government has made incorrect assumptions regarding the cost per square metre and the split of provision between local authority and private providers.

Today, the Education Secretary was unable to guarantee that all the children eligible for a childcare place from the beginning of August will actually get one.

The childcare commitment was first announced on January 7 without any real work having been done on the cost and how it would be implemented.

When the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 was passed on February 19 the Scottish Government still had no idea of the capital costs of the policy.

 Scottish Conservative finance spokesman Gavin Brown MSP:

“The Scottish Government has clearly not thought through how this childcare policy will be implemented in August.

“It has taken five months for the Education Secretary to produce a capital figure, yet now he is admitting it could rise even further by many more millions of pounds.

“With just eight weeks until this key SNP policy is due to be implemented, it’s staggering they cannot provide a cast-iron guarantee the buildings and facilities needed will be ready in time.

“Parents looking on at this ineptitude will rightly wonder whether their child will actually get the childcare promised by the SNP.”

Ends

Notes to editors:

  • A Scottish Government official admitted that in January they did not know the “exact numbers” of two-year-olds who would receive a childcare place in August.
  • They have now produced the following estimate:
  • 15,400 will become eligible for 600 hours by August 2015. This is broken down into 8,400 by 2014 and then a further 7,000 the year after that.
  • These figures refer to first, those two-year-olds from workless households and then those whose parents are in receipt of certain income benefits (such as JSA).
  • The Government estimates a 60/40 split between local authorities and private providers. COSLA disagrees, believing that in some council areas private providers could account for 80% and more.
  • If the private sector was unable to pick up this slack, there would be huge implications for local authorities – both in terms of delivery and cost.
  • Mike Russell said private providers would provide the facilities needed and committed the Scottish Government to cover any funding gap which might arise as a result of variations in private provider capacity.
Please go to the following link for background papers on today’s finance committee:
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_FinanceCommittee/Meeting%20Papers/FC_Public_Papers_4_June_2014.pdf