THE Government is underfunding “free” child care in Brighton and Hove, leaving parents or providers to make up the shortfall.

According to the council and child care providers, the national formula used by the Department for Education short-changes local families and nurseries.

As a result the so-called free child care is not free after all – or if it is, it is because pre-schools and nurseries are subsidising it and risk going bust as a result.

Ministers promised free places for 30 hours a week for three and four-year-olds.

But the Government is contributing between £4 and £5 an hour even though the typical cost in Brighton and Hove is more than £5 an hour.

Some child care providers are unhappy with the term “free child care” because they are being left to make up the shortfall to cover rising costs.

Kate Peach, owner of Each Peach nursery, in Wilbury Villas, Hove, said that the £4 an hour funding was unsustainable.

She said: “When you have the number of children we take over the course of the year, if each one took the 30 hours completely free it would cost us £92,000 a year. We do not make anywhere near that much.”

Mrs Peach praised Brighton and Hove City Council for allowing child care providers to top up fees.

But she is frustrated at the continued use of the term “free” given that she needs to ask for top ups to cover staff costs.

Mrs Peach added: “It is a very healthy amount of funding and not to be sniffed at.

“I’ve said anyone who gets the 30 hours can be charged £2 difference for the extra quality premium. It’s paying to make sure there’s still a nursery.”

Roopal Patel, managing director of St Joseph’s Pre-School, in Davey Drive, Hollingdean, sees funding as an issue for big nurseries. She said: “We have always been a

community-based nursery, not for profit. If one year numbers go down or plateau, we still have all our costs going up.

“Wages go up, the cost of living has gone up – and resources. We are not allowed to claim back VAT so face full costs for everything.”

The council said: “Child care providers continue to be concerned about the level of funding for three and four-year-olds.

“While we are passing on 95 per cent of Government funding to providers, our funding rate from the Department for Education is the lowest of any unitary authority in the South East.

“Our base funding rate of £4 per hour, plus supplements, is very low compared with the fees child care providers charge parents for hours in addition to the free entitlement.

“We are surveying parents this summer as part of our Childcare Sufficiency Assessment and from this we will gather parents’ views of the offer.”

Parents are now being asked to complete a survey as the council prepares its “child care sufficiency assessment” to find out how many child care places are needed in the future.

The child care consultation closes on Friday, August 31. To take part, visit