Childcare allowance pledge worth £18m to Devon and Cornwall's economy
Labour has pledged ten hours of extra free childcare for working families, representing an £18 million annual giveaway for Westcountry families.
The family-friendly plan unveiled by Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls was billed as worth around £1,500 per child and available for 12,000 children in Devon and Cornwall whose parents both work.
Working parents will get 25 hours a week of free childcare for children aged three and four under Labour. They get 15 hours free at present.
Also available to single parents in work, the policy would mean any parents could work a three-day week and pay nothing for care. The plan will be funded by an £800 million hike in the bank levy rate.
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Alison Seabeck, Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View, said the policy would have been hugely beneficial to her as a working mother.
She said: “It will enable families to earn more without worry all extra income will be lost because of childcare costs.
“I remember working part-time and only having £5 at the end of the week to show for my efforts. With free childcare I would have been able pay my way, had more money to spend in my local shops and so help economy to grow.
“This is a win-win policy for families struggling with the rising cost of living and for local businesses.”
Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP for Exeter, said: “Balancing work and childcare is a big challenge for many families and this will ease the pressure on their budgets.
“It will also help the economy by freeing up parents who wish to work more hours. Funding it through the bank levy feels right, given the banks caused the global financial crisis, were bailed out by the public and have emerged virtually unscathed.”
Over the weekend, Labour announced parents of primary school children will be guaranteed access to childcare from 8am to 6pm under plans to help working families.
Mr Balls told delegates: “Childcare is a vital part of our economic infrastructure that, alongside family support and flexible working, should give parents the choice to stay at home with their children when they are very small and to balance work and family as they grow older.”
In his speech, Mr Balls appeared to signal a significant weakening in Labour support for HS2 – the project to build a new rail link between London, the Midlands and the north of England, suggesting that the potential £50 billion price-tag might be better spent elsewhere.
Repeating his line that, as chancellor, he would not offer a “blank cheque” to HS2, he added: “The question is – not just whether a new high speed line is a good idea or a bad idea, but whether it is the best way to spend £50 billion for the future of our country.”