Scrap business rates to help struggling nurseries, government urged

By Neil Puffett

| 08 October 2018

The requirement for nurseries to pay business rates should be scrapped in order to help them cope with the financial impact of delivering the government's 30 hours childcare offer, a charity representing nurseries has said.

A petition set up by nursery manager Victoria Whitty of Hocus Pocus Day Nursery in Bolton has been signed by more than 10,830 people. Picture: NDNA

National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) has written to Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and the Education Secretary Damian Hinds calling for them to take the step following the announcement last week that the Welsh government will give 100 per cent of business rates relief to nurseries, similar to existing arrangements in Scotland.

A petition to scrap business rates and VAT for nurseries in England, set up by nursery manager Victoria Whitty of Hocus Pocus Day Nursery in Bolton, has been signed by more than 10,830 people.
NDNA said most private, voluntary and independent nurseries, which offer 85 per cent of the total childcare and early education places in England, are small businesses struggling to survive because they are making losses on the places they are delivering as part of the government's 30 hours policy.

It said that, at the same time, the government mandates that they operate within strict regulations regarding both indoor and outdoor space for children while implementing a tax that punishes those offering more space.
Research by NDNA found that the average business rates bill is almost £11,000, with 52 per cent of NDNA members saying their bill has increased in the last year.

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of NDNA said: "Most of the nurseries we represent say they are making losses on funded places and are struggling to remain sustainable.
"Nurseries need to have plenty of space for young children to grow, develop, play and explore. These are not factories or shops, these are businesses that educate and care for our youngest children. They should not be penalised for offering a good learning environment for them in which to thrive.
"At NDNA we have worked with the Welsh and Scottish governments to see nurseries exempt from paying this unfair tax in recognition of their contribution in delivering government policies, it's time that English nurseries were treated the same."
Victoria Whitty, who started the petition, said: "What we as nursery owners, managers and users have achieved [through the petition] is fantastic. We have managed to make some noise, in what we know will be an ongoing battle.
"Let's hope that we continue to be heard and that the government starts to listen, so that we can celebrate in the near future."

Under the government's 30 hours childcare initiative, introduced in September 2017, around 330,000 three- and four-year-olds receive 30 hours of funded childcare a week.

Last month NDNA reported a rise in numbers of nurseries closing down, with many citing underfunding for the flagship government initiative as the cause.

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