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Council boss questions who will pay for free nursery places

By The Citizen  |  Posted: October 05, 2012

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CRITICAL services which help vulnerable families escape the vicious circle of deprivation could be at risk of losing £6 million of funding.

The news comes just weeks after Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced a scheme which will provide two-year-olds across the country with free nursery school education.

Councils had thought the scheme would be paid for with new government money, but there is now an understanding the cash for the day-to-day running of the project will be taken from councils' Early Intervention Grants (EIG).

This cash currently helps pay for things like Sure Start centres, short breaks for disabled children and help for teenage mums.

Gloucestershire County Council currently receives an EIG of just more than £21 million, but it is thought it could lose around £6 million to pay for the proposed nursery provision.

As a result, the authority's other services would be 'put under pressure' as the council scrambles to find the cash from elsewhere.

Paul McLain, the deputy leader of Gloucestershire County Council and cabinet member for vulnerable families, has signed a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron asking him to clarify the situation.

He believes that if the reassignment of funding is true and becomes a reality, it will mean a lot of 'tough decisions' for the council.

He said: "All councils thought this was new money from the Government to do this, but what it appears to be is typical smoke and mirrors.

"What appears to be the case, because nobody knows and that is why we are asking the PM, is that the money appears to be coming out of all of our existing pots of money.

"It appears that all of the funding for nursery education would have to come out of our Early Intervention Grant."

He added: "We are doing lots of trail blazing work in early intervention and our fear is that we might be forced to go back to late intervention which we know doesn't work.

"If we lose the full £6 million we will have to have a long and hard look and I can't believe that we will be able to continue doing everything that we have committed to."

The letter, which has been sent to David Cameron, is the work of Nottingham North MP Graham Allen, who is also the chair of the Early Intervention Foundation.

The letter urges the PM to address concerns surrounding the possible reduction in spending on Early Intervention to fund nursery provision for two year olds.

It also asks him to address the planned reduction in the Early Intervention Grant and the proposed abolition of the grant itself.

It has been suggested that up to £1.59bn will be deducted from Early Intervention Grants across the country over the next three years to pay for the nursery provision.

It has also been claimed that a further proposed reduction in EIG, scheduled for the coming years, combined with the money which appears to be set to be reassigned for nursery education provision for two-year-olds, would make early intervention work difficult for authorities to undertake.

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  • Shireresident  |  October 05 2012, 12:27PM

    Genius! get poodle Clegg to make a populist announcement and fail to mention that there's no new money but it's just robbing Peter to pay Paul. But as "we're all in it together" I suppose this represents a sort of perverse logic.

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  • LordGagas  |  October 05 2012, 10:35AM

    never mind al this, we are getting the councill offices done up, hooray

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