Calls to scrap “worrying” council rent charges to out-of-school clubs in the north east are set to reach a crunch point, it has emerged.
The Press and Journal has spoken to a series of clubs in recent days who are being hit with eye-watering charges for using council buildings.
At least one fears it will not be able to carry on.
All three organisations are worried about the higher charges being brought in by Aberdeenshire Council once schools return next month.
Kemnay-based Kiddiwinks launched an online petition, Kemnay breakfast and after school club have voiced fears about having to pay £1,000 to use the village’s primary school with Laurencekirk out of school club worried about an annual rent bill of up to £30,000.
Now the issue of the rent charges for charities providing childcare during the Covid-19 will be front and centre at a major council meeting.
Mearns councillor Leigh Wilson will take the rent row to a meeting of the full Aberdeenshire Council in a few weeks where he will be asking for the authority to completely scrap the charges.
He has lodged a motion with fellow members at September’s gathering and is asking for others to support his bid to scrap them completely.
The Mearns representative argues that the charities hit by charges are essential services and he has said “this simply cannot stand”.
Aberdeenshire playgroups have provided ‘essential service’ during Covid-19 pandemic
Mr Wilson said: “Every week we clapped at our front doors, recognising the remarkable contribution that key workers make to our lives, recognising that these people – not the elites – are the ones we should be rolling the red carpet out for.”
“But what we are doing to these very people now, the charities who we rely on for the most fundamental of services is the exact opposite of that.
“The Scottish Government are actively trying to transform childcare so that more parents can participate in the workplace, but these after-school clubs, who fill in the gaps and let children have as settled a life as possible, are being unconscionably penalised.
“This simply cannot stand. What I am therefore proposing is that if this issue has not been resolved by September, I will move a notice of motion to full council asking councillors to support the abolition of rental fees on all out-of-school providers.
“They are providing an essential service and it is vitally important we recognise that.
“There is no more democratic way of solving this issue than that – we will put it in the hands of councillors so that I and my Alba colleagues can argue our case for a fair deal for these groups.”
Hope it means the situation moves in a ‘positive direction’
Lisa Moggach, manager of Laurencekirk out of school club, hopes Mr Wilson’s intervention will lead to the changes they want to see.
She said: “We are pleased we have got his support.
“He is putting together a case and I agree with everything he said. So fingers crossed it starts to go in a positive direction.
“We’ve also launched our own petition and have sent it out to all of the parents.”
Kiddiwinks manager Carolyn Harper has also given her support to the fight against the charges in the rent row.
She said: “Kiddiwinks is happy to support everyone fighting these charges and hope a solution that suits everyone can be found.
“Although we are a playgroup there are many groups like ours in the situation of rising hire charges.”
Aberdeenshire Council insist it has to be ‘consistent across all facilities’
An Aberdeenshire Council spokesman said: “We have to be consistent across all our facilities and we have applied the standard rental pricing policy which is in use across all council services.
“Officers are committed to engaging with user groups to explore sustainability grants and other available support.”