POLL: Should parents in Norfolk be fined if they’re late collecting the kids from nursery..?

A former county council nursery now run by a national charity could increase its session fees by up to 31pc – and fine parents who are late.

Footprints Nursery, based at Hunstanton Children's Centre, is consulting on plans to introduce a �5 penalty for every 15 minutes parents are late collecting their child.

They also want to close at 5pm instead of 6pm.

Action for Children took control in July after Norfolk County Council put the running of its 44 children's centres out to tender in a bid to cut costs.

Sarah Kent's daughter Darcey, three, and 18-month-old son Noah attend Footprints Nursery twice a week and she said the proposals had reduced her to tears.

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She said from January, Darcey's daycare costs will rise 31pc from �25.20 a day to �33, while Noah's fees will rise 29pc from �28 a day to �36 – a total increase of �31.60 a week – not including possible late fines.

'I understand the cost of everything is rising, but we were horrified by the size of the increase,' Mrs Kent, 35, said. 'The government says we should go out to work and that's what I do, but I will have to seriously consider giving up now.

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'It is just so upsetting. The children are really settled there and I don't want to have to move them.'

Mrs Kent, who works at a law firm, said the town lacked affordable childcare and she would struggle to find a local alternative to the centre.

'At the moment, the nursery offers really flexible hours. I finish work at 5pm and pick the children up at about 5.15pm. When they introduce the late fee, I could be paying extra every day.'

A letter was sent home to parents inviting them to discuss the changes at a meeting on Wednesday.

Mrs Kent's husband, Rigil, added: 'We have spoken to many parents regarding this, some of whom are single parents or families on low incomes, and the majority have said they cannot afford these rises.

'They will either have to stop working or take their children out of the nursery and send them somewhere else.'

Action for Children operates 23 children's centres and four nurseries across the county, including King's Lynn.

Anne Waterman, the charity's operations director for children's services for Norfolk, said: 'Action for Children has had to increase the Hunstanton Footprints nursery charges to ensure the service is financially viable.

'Each year costs rise which has meant we have had to increase our fees. The fees are now in line with comparable providers across Norfolk and are considerably cheaper than private sector providers. 'The proposal to reduce the nursery's opening hours is currently out to consultation with our parents and no final decision has yet been made.'

A spokesman for the charity said late fees were 'standard practice'.

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