THERE could soon be a charge on the childcare provided before school breakfast clubs in Rhondda Cynon Taf.
The council is considering introducing a £1 a day charge for the childcare which is provided at primary and special schools in Rhondda Cynon Taf before the free breakfast clubs.
Under the proposals, it would continue to provide the breakfast clubs themselves for free which typically run between 8.30am and 9am each morning.
But cabinet could agree to consult on introducing a charge for the discretionary element of childcare provision, typically offered between 8am-8.30am before the free breakfast is provided.
The proposal is to introduce a fee of £1 per day for the extra half hour childcare provision that is currently in place for children within schools, through the breakfast club service.
Children who are eligible for free school meals would be exempt from any charge under the proposal and the council said the income generated would be re-invested into schools funding, to offset cost pressures.
The council said the pre-school day childcare proposals would in no way affect pupils’ access to breakfast club and a healthy breakfast free of charge, which will remain available for all pupils from nursery to Year 6 in the 30-minute period before school starts.
The proposed £1 charge (or £60 for a full term) relates to a period of childcare offered by some schools before school starts (typically from 8am-8.30am).
If agreed by cabinet on Monday, November 20, a public consultation on the proposal would run for six weeks from November 27 to January 8 and, if agreed, the change could be implemented from April 2024.
The consultation would also look for people’s views on other possible concessions to the £1 charge – such as families with more than one child using the provision.
The cabinet report said that the move could generate an estimated annual income in a full year of £495,000.
The council’s chief executive Paul Mee said: “It’s important to note that the pre-school day childcare proposals will in no way affect pupils’ access to breakfast clubs – which will remain available for all pupils from Nursery to Year 6 in the 30-minute period before school starts.
“The proposed £1 charge relates to a period of childcare offered by some schools before school starts, and the proposals would formalise this in a 30-minute period before breakfast club. Four other councils in Wales already charge for a similar service, and several others are currently considering it.”
The council leader Councillor Andrew Morgan said: “No councillor comes into local government with the intention to reduce the level of service provision provided – but unfortunately the harsh realities of the situation we face means that we have no option other than to reconsider what services we prioritise, or how we can do things differently.
“All elected members have a responsibility to ensure the council sets a balanced budget, and our proactive approach when previously faced with similar financial challenges is providing important financial resilience as we enter one of the most challenging funding periods, based upon current UK-wide public sector funding projections.
“Having balanced our largest-ever budget gap for the current financial year while avoiding major cuts in the process – and facing a further estimated budget gap of £85.4m over the next three years – the cabinet will need to consider a number of officer reports which seek to address the significant shortfall in funding which the council will face next year.
“The council has a duty to set a legally-balanced budget, but every year this becomes more difficult. It is wholly unfair that services we value have to be reduced as a result of the UK Government reluctance to prioritise public services.”