The Labour Party has promised working parents of three and four year-olds an extra ten hours’ free childcare per week if they win the next election in 2015.
Speaking at the party’s annual conference, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said such parents would be entitled to 25 hours free childcare per week, instead of the 15 they currently receive, provided all parents in the household worked.
Funding for the extra ten hours would come from a sharp increase in the bank levy (an annual tax on the debts held by banks), he declared.
Mr Balls claimed parents now spent £1,500 a year more on childcare than they had done under the last Labour government.
He told the BBC:
“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. But for many families, high childcare costs mean that it doesn’t even add up to go to work. So to make work pay for families, we must act.”
The measure would mean parents would be able to work part for the first time “without having to worry about the cost of childcare”, he claimed.
The party also plans to legislate to make every primary school stay open from 8am to 6pm, although nearby schools will be able to band together to cover the required hours. Labour has dubbed the measure, designed to cater to working parents, “wraparound childcare”.
Schools will be expected to fund any extra hours required from their existing budgets.