QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
ADMINISTRATIVE COURT CARDIFF
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
| THE QUEEN
on the application of
|- and -
|RHONDDA CYNON TAF COUNTY BOROUGH COUNCIL
James Goudie QC and Julian Milford (instructed by Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council) for the Defendant
Hearing dates: 20-21 April 2015
Crown Copyright ©
Mrs Justice Patterson:
i) Whether the consultation carried out was inadequate? The main issue is whether, when an authority proposes to cut a service to the public it can do so fairly without providing information about alternatives. In addition, it is contended that:a) The information provided by the defendant in the consultation was insufficiently fair and accurate;b) The information provided was flawed because it excluded any reference to the transport consequences of the decision.
ii) Whether the defendant is in breach of its duty under section 22 of the Childcare Act 2006 to secure sufficient childcare for working parents?
• The delivery of £4 million of efficiency savings (excluding schools);
• The delivery of agreed Phase One service changes/cuts totalling £5.2 million (as approved by Cabinet on 8 January 2014);
• Use of £5.2 million 'Medium Term Financial Planning and Service Transformation Reserve'.
"Secure so far as is reasonably practicable, that the provision of childcare (whether or not by it) is sufficient to meet the requirements of parents in their area who require childcare in order to enable them: (a) to take up or remain in work; or (b) to undertake education or training which could reasonably be expected to assist them to obtain work."
"1. Status Quo
2. Full time the term after the child's 3rd Birthday
3. Part time (half day) the term after the child's 3rd birthday and Full time Nursery
4. Part time (half-day) the term after the child's 3rd birthday and Part time (half-day) Nursery and Full time Reception
4a. Option 4 plus 50% play facility funded by the Council
4b. Option 4 plus 50% play facility chargeable to the parent
5. Part time (half-day) the term after the child's 3rd birthday and full time the term after the child's 4th birthday
6. Part time (half-day) the term after the child's 3rd birthday, part time (half-day) Nursery and Part-time Reception to term after 5th birthday
7. Single point admission in the September following the child's 3rd birthday (full time)
8. Single Point admission in the September following the child's 3rd birthday part time (half-day) nursery and full time Reception
9. Single point admission in the September following the child's 3rd birthday with part time (half-day) nursery and initial part time (half-day) Reception transferring to full time Reception the term following the child's 5th birthday"
The preferred option on the part of the defendant was option 5.
"All councils in Wales continue to be affected by significant reductions to their funding as a result of the austerity measures put in place by the UK Government.
Rhondda Cynon Taf CBC is facing an estimated shortfall in resources (budget gap) over the next 3 years of £70.7M, with a gap next year (2015/16) of £31.2M.
To deal with this budget gap the Council is reviewing all services and considering options to reduce expenditure by reconfiguring, cutting or reducing the services we provide.
An important part of this process is to gauge the views of our residents, stage and key stakeholders on our proposals.
Please take this opportunity to have your say."
"This proposal would amend the way in which school entry arrangements (subject to capacity) are funded across all of our schools.
The proposed funding arrangement would be based on:
- Part-time (half day, 15 hours per week) provision from the term after a child's 3rd birthday (pre nursery and nursery);
- Full-time (30 hours per week) provision from the term after a child's 4th birthday (nursery and reception); and
- Up to 15 hours per week (subject to capacity) of nursery provision in private, voluntary or independent registered education providers from the term after a child's 3rd birthday where there is no suitable availability within a school.
The proposal would see the removal of home to school transport and school meal provision for part-time nursery pupils.
Children already in receipt of full-time nursery provision during the 2014/15 academic year would continue to be funded for full-time provision, ie they will not be affected by the proposal. The proposal would impact on new admissions from September 2015 onwards.
Whilst the Council would fund schools in line with the proposal, initial school entry arrangements are effectively a matter for individual headteachers and governing bodies and some schools may decide to continue to offer and fund full-time nursery provision from within their allocated budget (as was the case when the decision was taken previously).
Overall Saving £2.166 million per year"
There was then a section headed 'Funding for Nursery Education: What you Need to Know.' Within that, various questions were asked including the following:
"Q. Why are you considering this again when it has already been overturned once?
To be clear, the judicial review judgment identified that additional information should have been presented to Cabinet as part of the decision making process. The provision of part time nursery education for 3 year olds was not in itself deemed unlawful, it was the process which was followed in making this decision which was ruled unlawful. The Council faces a £31m budget gap for next year, rising to over £70m over the next 3 years and therefore must look at all services to find savings.
Unfortunately, reductions to discretionary services such as full time nursery provision will inevitably have to be considered if we are to be able to close this budget gap and set a balanced budget – something which we are legally obliged to do.
Q. Will some schools be able to offer full time provision or wrap around care?
This will be up to individual schools to decide. If approved the amount of funding schools receive will be reduced in line with the proposal. Schools may however decide to use money from elsewhere in their budget to continue to provide full time nursery education and when this decision was taken previously approximately 60% of schools indicated they would look to do so. Schools may also consider wrap around care provision.
Q. I work full time and would not be able to pick my child up during the day, what support will be available to me?
The Council's Childcare Sufficiency Audit suggests there is sufficient provision to meet childcare demands. This audit is refreshed annually to ensure provision remains sufficient and additional review work will be carried out during the consultation period.
Q. Will home to school transport and school meal provision be affected by 3 year olds becoming part time?
Yes, if approved, home to school transport and school meals will not be provided for part time pupils."
"Option Number 1
Status Quo i.e. retain the current level of provision.
Not proposed because this option would continue to fund a historic level of provision, which is above the level provided by most Councils in Wales and considered to be unaffordable going forward. There is no evidence to substantiate the educational and attainment benefits from the current full time (nursery) education provision as opposed to part-time provision.
No financial savings delivered from this option.
Option Number 2
Full time provision from the term after the child's 3rd birthday.
Not proposed because this option would continue to fund a historic level of provision, which is above the level provided by most Councils in Wales and considered to be unaffordable going forward. There is no evidence to substantiate the educational and attainment benefits from full time (nursery) education provision from the term after a child's 3rd birthday as opposed to part-time provision.
If implemented, this option would deliver savings of £0.093M per year."
"2.1. Considers the outcome of the Consultation and the potential impact on equalities issues in respect of the Proposal as outlined in the report (together with its appendices);
2.2. Notes that in officers' opinion the Council would be acting in compliance with its relevant statutory duties as outlined in the report, should Cabinet proceed with implementation of the Proposal;
2.3. Determines whether or not it considers that the implementation of the Proposal would ensure that the Council is compliant with its statutory duties as regards the provision of nursery education for children from the term after their third birthday and such provision is sufficient for Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council;
2.4. Decide on whether or not, and if so how, it wishes to proceed with the Proposal; and
2.5. Request the Group Director, Corporate and Frontline Services to update the draft 2015/16 budget strategy to reflect the financial implications of the decision taken at paragraph 2.4 above, prior to Council on the 4th March 2015. As part of this update, if appropriate, any savings achievable in 2015/16 should be used to reduce the level of Transitional Funding (i.e. use of the Medium Term Financial Planning and Service Transformation Reserve) needed to deliver a balanced budget for that year."
"1.1. To note that in officers' opinion the Council would be acting in compliance with its relevant statutory duties (as outlined in the report together with its appendices) should Cabinet proceed with implementation of the proposal as set out in paragraph 4 of the report.
1.2. That implementation of the proposal would ensure the provision of nursery education for children from the term after their third birthday is sufficient for the children of Rhondda Cynon Taf.
1.3. That following consideration of the outcomes of the Consultation, the Equalities Impact Assessment and further information collated by officers during the Consultation to implement the proposal as outlined below:-
- That the funding arrangement for the provision of Nursery Education for Rhondda Cynon Taf be based on:-
- Part time (half day) (15 hours per week) provision from the term after a child's 3rd Birthday (pre-nursery and nursery);
- Full time (30 hours per week) provision from the term after a child's 4th Birthday (nursery and reception);
- Funding up to 15 hours per week (subject to capacity) of nursery provision in private, voluntary or independent registered education providers from the term following the child's third Birthday where there is no suitable availability within a school (n.b. in this context 'suitability' shall relate to the availability of a place at a school which, in the council's opinion, is within a reasonable radius of the child's ordinary place of residence i.e. where those with parental responsibility for the child live).
- That children already in receipt of full time nursery provision (during the 2014-2015 academic year) will continue to be funded for full time provision i.e. they will not be affected by implementation of the proposal.
- That the provision of funding for Free School Meals is to continue for those children eligible and in receipt of either part time or full time nursery provision (reducing the saving by £0.105M in a full year which equates to £0.071M part year impact in 2015/16).
- That the provision of Home to School Transport continue in line with the Council's current Learner Travel Policy and in accordance with that policy, transport would only be arranged to coincide with the start and end of the normal school day and not at lunchtimes.
1.4. That implementation of the decision taken in respect of the proposal, as outlined in 1.3 above, takes effect from 1st September 2015, delivering full year savings of £2.061M which equates to £1.259M part year impact in 2015/16.
1.5. That the Group Director, Corporate & Frontline Services updates the draft 2015/16 budget strategy to reflect the financial implications of the decision taken, prior to Council on the 4th March 2015 and as part of this update, any savings achievable in 2015/16 should be used to reduce the level of transitional funding (i.e. use of the Medium Term Financial Planning and Service Transformation Reserve) needed to deliver a balanced budget for that year."
Ground One: Consultation
"It is common ground that, whether or not consultation of interested parties and the public is a legal requirement, if it is embarked upon it must be carried out properly. To be proper, consultation must be undertaken at a time when proposals are still at a formative stage; it must include sufficient reasons for particular proposals to allow those consulted to give intelligent consideration and an intelligent response; adequate time must be given for this purpose; and the product of consultation must be conscientiously taken into account when the ultimate decision is taken (R v Brent LBC ex parte Gunning  84 LGR 168)."
The obligation on the consulting authority is:
"112. … to let those who have a potential interest in the subject matter know in clear terms what the proposal is and exactly why it is under positive consideration, telling them enough (which may be a good deal) to enable them to make an intelligent response. The obligation, although it may be quite onerous, goes no further than this."
"63. In reality, a conclusion that a consultation exercise was unlawful on the ground of unfairness will be based upon a finding by the court, not merely that something went wrong, but that something went "clearly and radically" wrong."
He revisited that in R (JL & AT Beard) v The Environment Agency  EWHC 939 (Admin) when he agreed with Ouseley J as to the test to be applied. He said at :
"The test is whether the process was so unfair as to be unlawful. In Greenpeace, I was not seeking to put forward a different test, but merely indicating that in reality a conclusion that a consultation process has been so unfair as to be unlawful is likely to be based on a factual finding that something has gone clearly and radically wrong."
"23. … But irrespective of how the duty to consult has been generated, that same common law duty of procedural fairness will inform the manner in which the consultation should be conducted.
24. Fairness is a protean concept, not susceptible of much generalised enlargement. But its requirements in this context must be linked to the purposes of consultation. In R (Osborn) v Parole Board  UKSC 61,  3 WLR 1020, this court addressed the common law duty of procedural fairness in the determination of a person's legal rights. Nevertheless the first two of the purposes of procedural fairness in that somewhat different context, identified by Lord Reed in paras 67 and 68 of his judgment, equally underlie the requirement that a consultation should be fair. First, the requirement 'is liable to result in better decisions, by ensuring that the decision-maker receives all relevant information and that it is properly tested' (para 67). Second, it avoids 'the sense of injustice which the person who is the subject of the decision will otherwise feel' (para 68). Such are two valuable practical consequences of fair consultation. But underlying it is also a third purpose, reflective of the democratic principle at the heart of our society. This third purpose is particularly relevant in a case like the present, in which the question was not 'Yes or no, should we close this particular care home, this particular school etc?' It was 'Required, as we are, to make a taxation-related scheme for application to all the inhabitants of our Borough, should we make one in the terms which we here propose?'"
"26. Two further general points emerge from the authorities. First, the degree of specificity with which, in fairness, the public authority should conduct its consultation exercise may be influenced by the identity of those whom it is consulting. Thus, for example, local authorities who were consulted about the government's proposed designation of Stevenage as a 'new town' (Fletcher v Minister of Town and Country Planning  2 All ER 496 at p 501) would be likely to be able to respond satisfactorily to a presentation of less specificity than would members of the public, particularly perhaps the economically disadvantaged. Second, in the words of Simon Brown LJ in the Baker case, at p 91, 'the demands of fairness are likely to be somewhat higher when an authority contemplates depriving someone of an existing benefit or advantage than when the claimant is a bare applicant for a future benefit'.
27. Sometimes, particularly when statute does not limit the subject of the requisite consultation to the preferred option, fairness will require that interested persons be consulted not only upon the preferred option but also upon arguable yet discarded alternative options. For example, in R (Medway Council and others) v Secretary of State for Transport  EWHC 2516 (Admin),  JPL 583 , the court held that, in consulting about an increase in airport capacity in South East England, the government had acted unlawfully in consulting upon possible development only at Heathrow, Stansted and the Thames estuary and not also at Gatwick; and see also R (Montpeliers and Trevors Association) v Westminster City Council  EWHC 16 (Admin),  LGR 304, at para 29.
28. But, even when the subject of the requisite consultation is limited to the preferred option, fairness may nevertheless require passing reference to be made to arguable yet discarded alternative options. …"
"37. … In the present context, the local authority is discharging an important function in relation to local government finance, which affects its residents generally. The statutory obligation is, 'before making a scheme', to consult any major precepting authority, to publish a draft scheme, and, critically, to 'consult such other persons as it considers are likely to have an interest in the operation of the scheme'. …"
"38. Such wide-ranging consultation, in respect of the exercise of a local authority's exercise of a general power in relation to finance, is far removed in context and scope from the situations in which the common law has recognised a duty of procedural fairness. The purpose of public consultation in that context is in my opinion not to ensure procedural fairness in the treatment of persons whose legally protected interests may be adversely affected, as the common law seeks to do. The purpose of this particular statutory duty to consult must, in my opinion, be to ensure public participation in the local authority's decision-making process.
39. In order for the consultation to achieve that objective, it must fulfil certain minimum requirements. Meaningful public participation in this particular decision-making process, in a context with which the general public cannot be expected to be familiar, requires that the consultees should be provided not only with information about the draft scheme, but also with an outline of the realistic alternatives, and an indication of the main reasons for the authority's adoption of the draft scheme. That follows, in this context, from the general obligation to let consultees know 'what the proposal is and exactly why it is under positive consideration, telling them enough (which may be a good deal) to enable them to make an intelligent response': R v North and East Devon Health Authority, Ex p Coughlan  QB 213, para 112, per Lord Woolf MR.
40. That is not to say that a duty to consult invariably requires the provision of information about options which have been rejected. …In the present case, on the other hand, it is difficult to see how ordinary members of the public could express an intelligent view on the proposed scheme, so as to participate in a meaningful way in the decision-making process, unless they had an idea of how the loss of income by the local authority might otherwise be replaced or absorbed.
41. Nor does a requirement to provide information about other options mean that there must be a detailed discussion of the alternatives or of the reasons for their rejection. The consultation required in the present context is in respect of the draft scheme, not the rejected alternatives; and it is important, not least in the context of a public consultation exercise, that the consultation documents should be clear and understandable, and therefore should not be unduly complex or lengthy. Nevertheless, enough must be said about realistic alternatives, and the reasons for the local authority's preferred choice, to enable the consultees to make an intelligent response in respect of the scheme on which their views are sought."
The Claimants' Submissions
"It cannot be the case that if an authority does not consult on rejected options, and only presents a preferred option for consultation, then that must be misleading. It is one thing positively to mislead as in Moseley. It is quite another for the Council, in all the circumstances of the case, to have and to put forward, after careful and detailed consideration, a point of view that circumstances dictated that it was not realistic to increase council tax or to use reserves and therefore to focus the consultation on savings in services."
The Defendant's Submissions
i) consultation already takes place by virtue of the general budget consultation;
ii) the rate of council tax is set on an annual basis as part of the Local Authority's budget setting exercise. It is not set on a recurrent basis in response to the need to make particular savings or raise particular revenue;
iii) the claimants' proposed 'alternative' would have amounted to a near doubling in the rate of council tax in the Council's area from 3.8% to 7% which may have meant probable intervention by the Welsh Government.
Discussion and Conclusions
i) let those with a potential interest in the subject matter know clearly what the proposal of the public authority is;
ii) explain why the proposal is under positive consideration;
iii) give the consultees sufficient information so that they can make an informed response to the proposal under consideration;
iv) allow sufficient time for those consultees to be able to submit their informed response;
v) conscientiously consider the product of the consultation and take that into account when reaching and taking the final decision.
"Another aspect of fairness is that it must present the available information fairly. In this case, because the JCPCT had to collect information from the centres to present the available information it would have to make clear to the centres what information it needed. A further aspect of fairness lies in the presentation of the information on which the views of consultees should be sought. The options for change must be fairly presented. Nonetheless, a decision-maker may properly decide to present his preferred options in the consultation document, provided it is clear what the other options are: Nichol v Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council (1988) 87 LGR 435. "
As part of presenting information in a clear way, the decision maker may present his preferred option. Part of the available information to be presented to the public may be alternative options for change. What is an alternative option will depend on the factual and context specific circumstances of the consultation in question.
"(iv) (paragraph 27) 'Sometimes, particularly when statute does not limit the subject of the requisite consultation to the preferred option, fairness will require that interested persons be consulted not only upon the preferred option but also upon arguable yet discarded alternative options.'
(v) (Paragraph 28) 'But, even when the subject of the requisite consultation is limited to the preferred option, fairness may nevertheless require passing reference to be made to arguable yet discarded alternative options.' He then refers in support of this to two authorities, one of which is the Royal Brompton case."
Ground Two: Was the Defendant in Breach of its Duty under Section 22(1) of the Childcare Act 2006?
"(1) A Welsh local authority must secure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the provision of childcare (whether or not by them) is sufficient to meet the requirements of parents in their area who require childcare in order to enable them—
(a) to take up, or remain in, work, or
(b) to undertake education or training which could reasonably be expected to assist them to obtain work."
"(2) In determining for the purposes of subsection (1) whether the provision of childcare is sufficient to meet those requirements, a local authority—
(a) must have regard to the needs of parents in their area for—
(i) the provision of childcare in respect of which the child care element of working tax credit is payable,
(ii) the provision of childcare which is suitable for disabled children, and
(iii) the provision of childcare involving the use of the Welsh language, and
(b) may have regard to any childcare which they expect to be available outside their area."
"2.14 Local Authorities are required to secure childcare of sufficient duration and reliability to enable parents to make a real choice about work. Local Authorities are required to act to secure sufficient childcare that is registered by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW).
2.17 The effect of the wording "reasonably practicable" within the Childcare Act is to allow the Local Authorities to take into account their resources and capabilities in making decisions about when to intervene to address gaps in the childcare market. Local Authorities will have to meet needs as far as they are able to within those constraints, but it allows for some flexibility - what might be practicable will depend on the particular circumstances of a Local Authority."
"2.42 To fulfil the sufficiency duty in Section 22 of the Childcare Act, Local Authorities will be expected to do what they can within their powers and resources to ensure that sufficient childcare is available to meet the needs of working parents, now and in the future. As part of this, Local Authorities will need to identify groups of parents who are finding it most difficult to access appropriate childcare at the current market price and who may face the greatest difficulties in future, and to consider what additional assistance can be given to them. This should include maximising take-up of the free entitlement, understanding where more affordable childcare is available, and offering subsidies where that is appropriate and reasonably practicable. Local Authorities also have an important role in publicising the financial support available through the childcare element of the Working Tax Credit and, where appropriate, providing advice and guidance to eligible families on how to access it."
"2.77 Childcare services have been made more affordable for more families because of additional supply-side and demand-side funding. Supply-side spending has increased the numbers of places available and attempted to reduce the structural costs of childcare. However, despite investment in developing the capacity and infrastructure of the childcare market, fees to parents have increased rapidly and remain high in some sectors. So, while supply has increased, demand has grown faster, and "operating costs" are high and still rising."
"Put in blunt terms the cabinet had to ask themselves: if we close the nursery, are we able to comply with our statutory duty to ensure adequate childcare for those covered by the Act? Plainly, if that issue had not been addressed when it made its decision, the Cabinet … would have been susceptible to a strong challenge."
"To note that in officers' opinion the Council would be acting in compliance with its relevant statutory duties (as outlined in the report together with the appendices) should Cabinet proceed with implementation of the proposal as set out in paragraph 4 of the report.
1.2. That implementation of the proposal would ensure the provision of a nursery education for children from the term after their third birthday is sufficient for the children from Rhondda Cynon Taf."
"8.62. Against the above background, it is clear the Proposal would change the market for childcare across the Council's area by raising the demand for childcare places both because of reduced school hours for some children, and because the Council has increased the number of hours of funded childcare from 10 hours to 15 hours for those children that cannot secure a childcare place at a suitable local school. At this point, officers' best assessment is that the Council would nevertheless be able to meet its duty under section 22 of the 2006 Act, if the Proposal were to proceed, based on the following matters:
i. As stated in paragraphs 8.55-8.57 a very high proportion of providers are interested in providing wrap-around care. A large majority of the childcare providers consulted indicated they were either planning on providing wraparound care provision or would do so subject to interest/demand. From the sample of childcare providers contacted 94.4% of respondents stated that they were interested in exploring wraparound care provision. 72.2% of these said they were planning to offer or would probably offer wraparound care provision.
ii. Schools also appear to be working with parents to address the demand for wraparound care (paragraph 8.48), and the numbers of schools either willing to provide wraparound care themselves, or to offer it through a local childcare provider as referred to in paragraph 8.50 highlights this. The survey has demonstrated that schools have consulted with parents as regards to whether there would be a demand for wraparound care provision in light of possible changes to provision of nursery education and that some schools would offer such a facility onsite if possible.
iii. At least a substantial minority of schools (and potentially, a majority of schools) are likely to continue to provide full time education for 3-year-olds, even if it is not funded by the Council. The best estimate at this stage about how many schools are likely to continue to provide full-time education (as highlighted in paragraphs 7.32-7.35 above), is between 40% and 60% based on (i) the decision schools took following the January 2014 Decision and (ii) the results of the Council's headteacher's survey.
iv. EYFSS is able to identify and target those areas where there appears to be no obvious provider at present who is offering or may be interested in offering wrap-around provision. In these areas, further work will be undertaken by EYFSS to find suitable providers/solutions to address the childcare needs of those areas and/or individual schools. This may include advertising opportunities for providers to establish new provision via an 'Expression of Interest' application process or by offering support and advice to existing providers in neighbouring areas.
v. It is acknowledged that the Proposal will alter the number of parents who need to find childcare. However, the relatively low proportion of respondents to the Council's CSA that presently consider childcare is a barrier to them accessing employment (approximately one quarter of respondents to the CSA had children of nursery age) offers some reassurance that the Council is starting from a relatively good position in seeking to secure sufficient childcare for its area.
8.63. It would of course be necessary for officers to keep the position stated above under review, and to report back to Cabinet should their views on childcare sufficiency change in light of further information. Officers also recognise that there is an issue with the affordability of childcare for some parents. Officers would ensure that the EYFSS addressed problems with affordability, as far as practicable. The Council has also addressed issues of affordability, so far as reasonable, by increasing the numbers of funded childcare hours from 10 to 15 for those children who cannot secure a childcare place at a suitable local school. It is not considered practicable to provide further funding for childcare provision without undermining the costs savings sought to be made by the Proposal."
i) what additional childcare needs would be created by the decision;
ii) how that additional demand would be met; or
iii) whether any additional childcare that was available would be "sufficient" in the sense of being affordable for parents.
The Council's reliance upon the assumption that a high proportion of schools would continue to make full time nursery provision for three year olds despite not being funded had no sound basis. The assumption was apparently based upon:
i) the Council's "knowledge of how many schools had decided in 2014 that they would continue to provide full time education." But that said nothing about whether the funds would be available in the academic year 2015/16.
ii) the views of a representative sample of headteachers meant asking only eighteen headteachers. Of those, only eight out of eighteen indicated they would make a recommendation to continue with full time provision.
"What Calgin  1 All ER 112, Sacupima (2001) 33 HLR 1 and the earlier Court of Appeal authority of S (above, paragraph 25) all demonstrate is the relevance of current resources when considering reasonable practicability, whilst acknowledging that there is a minimum standard below which the authority must not drop."
"Proposed changes to the nursery education provision in RCT has led to a growth in demand for session and wrap-around care and the authority is urgently funding a childcare and schools board officer for a year to ensure all schools are supported to meet the childcare needs of families. Officers from the Early Years and Family Support Services departments (EYFSS) are working with the Education Department, headteachers and third sector organisations in order to meet the increase in the demand for childcare created by the potential reduction in nursery hours. This is likely to lead to an increase during the year ahead in the number of sessional childcare places available in RCT. …Providers who responded to the request for information identified an increase in the number of vacancies again this year. Parents continue to use family/friends to meet their childcare needs. The increase in childcare costs and an increase in the number of all day care provisions that are being established when there is clearly no identified need for new provision in most areas contributes to the challenges. We are also aware that there is an overconcentration of day nurseries in some areas causing an oversupply of places and a subsequent financial risk to new and existing childcare providers."
i) the defendant identified affordability as an issue;
ii) it sufficiently investigated affordability via the CSA;
iii) the Childcare Development Plan identified steps to address affordability;
iv) the defendant recognised that the decision being made would impact on affordability;
v) EYFSS would take appropriate steps to address affordability.
Discussion and Conclusions