CHILDCARE services funded by the council may no longer be free due to cuts in government spending.

A public consultation is now under way on a proposal for Brighton and Hove City Council to start charging a set rate of £3 per child per 90-minute session for children’s centre groups which until now have been free.

Charges for other parent and toddler groups across the city vary from free to £3.50.

A council spokesman said that following a reduction in funding from central government over the next few years, charging for some services would be an alternative to stopping them altogether.

The proposal is to charge for drop-in groups such as stay and play, dads’ stay and play and children’s centre drop-in groups in libraries.

The charge would not be extended to services delivered by health staff, healthy child clinics, baby groups and a range of targeted and invitation groups, courses and crèches.

This includes services aimed at protected groups such as children with disabilities and bilingual families and invitation groups such as post natal depression groups and Chatterbox, which is for children with speech and language issues.

Parents less than 19 years of age, on low incomes or who have disabilities, as well as looked-after and adopted children or those subject to a care plan would not be charged.

Under the proposal, charges would be paid using the Parent Pay system which is used by Brighton and Hove schools for cashless payments for dinner money and activities such as trips.

The plan, subject to the consultation, is to introduce the charges in January.

The consultation ends on September 12 and the decision will be made by the Children and Young People committee in October.

A note in the consultation says that charging for a wider range of council-funded services may be considered in the future.

A government estimate is that 34% of two-year-olds in the city will be eligible for free childcare from September.

To view the consultation, visit