Labour Promise to Focus on Childcare

Labour Promise to Focus on Childcare

While the next general election does not need to happen until late 2024, Labour are hoping to make significant gains in the local elections taking place in May. This means their politicians are in campaigning mode, setting out what their party hopes to do in government, seeking to deal a blow to the Conservative party, which has had a turbulent few months. For the last decade or so, childcare policies have been recognised as a key weapon in the electoral arsenal; parents are a key voting demographic and getting childcare policy right can pay dividends at the ballot box. The clearest example of this in recent history is the creation of 30 Free Hours – which was a Conservative policy developed to outflank Labour’s similar 25 hour policy in the 2015 general election campaign.

Against this background it is unsurprising that Labour’s shadow childcare minister, Bridget Phillipson, has pledged that were her party in power, early years would be a priority of the government. In particular, she has committed to a £112 million recovery package. This would be used to increase the Early Years Pupil Premium from £302 to £1,345, matching what is paid to primary schools. Labour claim that this increase is the equivalent of 400,000 weeks of full time childcare for 107,000 eligible children.

As might be expected, the sector has welcomed Labour’s pledge, albeit noting that more would need to be done to ensure providers were on a truly sustainable footing. What will need to be watched for is how the government reacts. Childcare is an area in which financial austerity is a difficult ask politically, since it directly impacts so many people. But with inflation rising, the government is keen to take a firm grip of the nation’s finances, to ensure it maintains its reputation for economic competence. The Labour Minister may think childcare is a chink in the government’s political armour and so this is unlikely to be the last we hear of childcare policies in the near future.