In his New Year Speech, Ed Miliband pledged to deal with the ‘rising cost of childcare’ if Labour win the general election next year. The labour leader made it clear that childcare was to play a major part in the election campaign messages, and is exploring whether the party can fund “a big offer” on childcare in its manifesto.
This could see a pledge to introduce universal state-funded childcare for all preschool-age children.
Labour will try to exploit the mistakes made by the Coalition government, in particular the embarrassing climb-down over plans by Liz Truss, the Tory education minister, to change early years ratios.
The party will quote official figures which show that only 66 per cent of mothers in the UK work, less than France (72 per cent), Denmark (86 per cent), the Netherlands (78 per cent) or Germany (69 per cent).
In his new-year message, Mr Miliband said Britain was “in the midst of the biggest cost-of-living crisis in a generation”.
He said: “People do not want the earth. They would much prefer some very specific promises, specific things about what a government will do – whether it’s freezing energy bills, taking action on pay day lenders, or tackling issues around childcare which lots of working parents face. All of this is adding up to a programme for how we can change things. It’s clearly costed, it’s credible and it’s real.”
He added: “Whether it’s people being unable to afford the weekly shop or worried about the gas and electric bill – or saying ‘I have always thought of myself as reasonably well off but I’m really having trouble making ends meet’.
“People are thinking they have made the sacrifices – and the Government keeps telling them that everything is fixed. But it does not seem fixed to them. Surely we can do better than this as a country.”
He continued: “We are going to show to people in 2014 how by standing up for the right people, by being willing to take on the powerful interests and make big changes in our economy, we can deal with the cost of living crisis both now and in the future so that we can earn and grow our way to a higher standard of living for people.”
A report from the Institute for Public Policy Research argued that a huge expansion of childcare would pay for itself over time by allowing mothers to go back to work, if there were more affordable childcare.
The IPPR suggested that attracting 280,000 women back into the labour market would save almost £1.5billion in extra tax revenue and lower spending on benefits and tax credits.
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