A new report ranks Leeds among the worst five cities in the UK for childcare costs preventing parents from going to work – as it emerges that Leeds council bosses are to consider increasing nursery charges.
Leeds City Council’s executive board is expected to rubberstamp budget proposals next month which include increasing its nursery fees by £3 a day – taking the total cost to £39 a day.
Council chiefs said the decision was “not taken lightly” but it will come as a blow to the many parents in Leeds already struggling to justify the costs involved in returning to work, according to a new survey. Research by Findababysitter.com found nearly one in four unemployed parents in Leeds wanted to work but could not because of high childcare costs. The figure - 23 per cent of parents - placed the city in the UK’s top five, and narrowly behind London, with 24 per cent of parents. Birmingham, Bristol and Oxford were in the top three. The survey found the average cost of childcare nationally had leapt by 19 per cent in the past year. It said the average cost of a babysitter had jumped from £8.10 an hour to £9.80.
Sharon Greene, Unison women’s officer said: “If the country is to recover from the economic downturn the Government needs to listen to working parents and take account of the needs of the modern workplace. That means providing funding for more affordable, flexible and quality childcare.”
Coun Judith Blake, executive member for children’s services, said the council takes the issue of affordable childcare “extremely seriously”. She said: “In a climate of cuts and reducing budgets it is becoming increasingly difficult for families to find childcare that they can afford. That’s why we’re continuing to support our childcare provision and the decision to propose a small increase was not taken lightly. The cost of council-provided childcare is still significantly below the average cost of childcare provision in Leeds.” She said unlike other local authorities, Leeds council has pledged to keep all the children’s centres open. The Department for Education said free early education for three and four-year-olds had been extended from 12.5 hours to 15 hours a week, and also extended to support two-year-olds from low-income families.