A PRE-SCHOOL which has been used by thousands of children over the last 30 years is at risk of closure.

The charity-run Mulberry Pre-School in Valley Park could shut within three years if more funds are not found.

Members of the committee that runs the pre-school based at Valley Park Community Centre said only five out of the 25 children who attend the pre-school pay the full charge of £5.30 per hour while the rest of the children benefits from the early years education entitlement supported by Hampshire County Council.

“This is where we have this shortfall,” treasurer Andrew Prestidge said.

“We get £4.37 per child per hour compared to our charge rate of £5.30. We are a charity and if this continues, in a few years time we might not be able to function,”he added.

Mr Prestidge said that charging the parents who do not benefit from the free childcare scheme more than £5.30 per hour is not an option.

“We don’t want to charge parents more to subsidise the funding. It’s not fair and it’s not what we should be doing anyway and the amount we would have to charge parents would be a considerable increase, we would have to charge them double or triple,” Mr Prestidge said.

He explained the 10 members of staff who currently work at the pre-school are already on the National Living Wage.

He added: “I feel bad as a committee member that we are not able to give a pay rise to our staff but we can’t afford anything at the moment. We need more money because what we have been given is not enough to run. We have got money in our bank which will last a few years but we can’t sustain that for long, we need some help. This pre-school has been going on for 30 years and they are taking it away from us.”

Members of the committee are now calling for the authorities to increase the funds available or for local businesses to come forward and help.

County councillor Alan Dowden said he will talk to colleagues at the county council to see what action can be taken.

“I desperately want this to continue and someone needs to step in. The government is the main culprit. There should be funding but if everything else fails I have much hope a business will come forward.”