CHILDCARE providers in York have turned their back on a Government free childcare scheme, saying the funding is so low they cannot afford to take part in it.

Nursery owners, childminders and playgroup organisers in York yesterday agreed that they could not join the pilot scheme - running in York before anywhere else in the country - at the rates of pay currently on the table.

Helen Gration, who founded York's Montessori nursery, and Ken McArthur who owns Polly Anna's nursery in Haxby were both at a meeting of 30 providers yesterday afternoon, and said the low hourly rate the Government and council are offering is "unworkable".

Menna Godfrey, who represented childcare providers in Copmanthorpe at the meeting, added: "We have a responsibility to make sure this scheme is fair for everyone when it gets rolled out in September 2017."

York has been chosen to trial the free 30 hours scheme ahead of the rest of the country, and the nurseries' decision to reject the funding offer is an "early warning" to the Government over its scheme, the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) has said.

The financial offer means nurseries, playgroups and childminders in York are getting £3.38 per hour for the existing 15 free hours, and are being offered £3.95 for the second 15 hours under the trial, giving an average of £3.60 - 90p an hour less than the providers say they need to make it work.

Mrs Gration said they understood the local authority in York was also finding it difficult because York is historically poorly funded, but said even people running charitable provision like playgroups agreed they couldn't operate on the rates on offer at the moment.

She added: "If we don't take a stand, we fear that the local authority won't go back to the Department for Education and fight for us."

NDNA Chief Executive Purnima Tanuku has backed their move, saying: “It is disappointing but entirely understandable that nurseries won’t commit to the pilot because they aren’t getting paid a fair rate for their business to continue as a going concern.

"We warned the Government that childcare providers might find themselves having to make this decision.

"If the starting point for 30 funded hours is too low there is no hope these pilots will succeed.

“But we don’t want a situation where parents cannot benefit from the additional free hours because the funding rate is too low for providers to offer it."