Labour would increase bank levy to fund free childcare


Ed Balls: "We will increase for working families free childcare for three and four-year-olds"

Working parents of three and four-year-olds in England would get 25 hours of free childcare a week if Labour wins the next general election.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls plans to raise the banking levy by £800m a year to fund the move.

Three and four-year-olds currently receive 15 hours of free care a week, but Mr Balls wants to increase this.

Meanwhile, he has asked the government's spending watchdog to review his party's economic plans.

Money would be provided for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but it would be up to the governments there to decide whether to spend it in the same way as England.

Extra 10 hours

The extra 10 hours of free childcare proposed by Mr Balls would be made available to households where all parents are in work - whether single parents or couples.

At the Labour Party conference the shadow chancellor claimed families had lost £1,500 a year in childcare support under the current government.

In other Labour conference developments:

Ahead of his speech to the party faithful Mr Balls told the BBC the policy would be "a huge change and really welcome for families getting out to work".


Call them what you like. The squeezed middle. The strivers. The politicians have a tricky task. They haven't made them better off. But they desperately want their votes.

These are the people who will decide the next election. And if the parties can't appeal to these increasingly sceptical section of the electorate direct - then they will try to appeal to them through their children.

So, last week, the Lib Dems tried to prove there is such a thing as a free lunch - school meals for infant school kids irrespective of their parents' income. Every little helps.

The Conservatives, too, tried to force down the cost of childcare by changing the adult/child ratio in nurseries - that is until their coalition partners stopped it.

Now Labour has entered the fray by pledging to increase free child care for working parents of three and four-year-olds. Note - working parents.

All the parties have to convince the "strivers" that they are not soft on welfare and that they will spend wisely. Hard pressed parents will also want reassurance that policy pledges aren't just for the conference season but are for real.

Hence Labour's offer to have all its tax and spending plans independently audited.

It's a measure of how far trust in politics has fallen amongst floating voters that it's been felt necessary to suggest this. So the next election won't simply be fought on the doorsteps - or in TV studios - but in the nurseries and school rooms too.

"That's a clear and costed commitment showing that even in tough times, when there's going to be less money around, we will make a difference," he added.

He said that "for the first time" parents would be able to work part-time "without having to worry about the cost of childcare".

"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."

Bank levy

In his speech in Brighton Mr Balls also claimed the government's banking levy had raised £1.6bn less than expected.

He said: "At a time when resources are tight and families are under pressure, that cannot be right. So I can announce today the next Labour government will increase the bank levy rate to raise an extra £800m a year."

In June 2010, Chancellor George Osborne announced that banks operating in the UK would be subject to a levy - an annual tax on their balance sheets - in a joint move between the UK, France and Germany.

The idea was to raise more than £8bn for the Treasury over four years, and Mr Osborne it was "fair and right" that banks should contribute to the economic recovery given that the financial crisis began in banking.

Labour's policy pledge comes shortly after the government announced that all pupils at infant schools in England will get free school lunches from next September.

Economic 'stunt'

Labour has already promised all parents of primary school children will be able to get "wraparound" childcare - meaning children can be left at school from 8am to 6pm - if it wins the 2015 election.

On Saturday, Ed Miliband said he would "legislate for a primary school guarantee that every school is an 8am to 6pm school", although party officials said schools could band together to offer the opening hours between them.

They said the scheme would be paid for from existing schools budgets, which Labour said had already been raised for the purpose by the last government.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Balls reiterated his pledge not to increase borrowing to fund day-to-day government spending.

But asked about so-called capital spending - on building and infrastructure projects - he said: "We won't make that decision until we see where we are on the economy in a year and a half's time."

In a separate move, Mr Balls said on Sunday that he had written to the Office for Budget Responsibility to ask it to review his pledges for the economy - although it would have to have its remit changed to be able to do so.

Andrew Tyrie, Conservative chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, said such a review could "improve the quality of public debate" but Treasury minister Sajid Javid called Labour's request a "stunt".


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  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    59 "I know for a fact that as a country we are rich enough to provide a decent standard of living for everyone, it'd just take a bit less greed and selfishness" - yep, we need parents to stop greedily and selfishly demanding the State bring up their kids at the expense of people without kids. Be a good start.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Well done Ed. Let's levy the banks to also Run the NHS, Pay all pensions, Pay the MOD budget and 40 weeks annual holiday per year for all........

    Hang On.

    Don't they call that Greece?

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    I assume Labour are going to borrow more or tax the wealth creators to fund this. They never learn do they. My only hope is that the electorate eventually learn and keep this bunch of goons out of office.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    @55. Total Mass Retain

    Last time I checked free healthcare is available to all.
    My close friend has 4 kids has a good job as does his wife, he gets at least 2 hols a year plus weekends away. It is simply not right that they receave the tax breaks etc for the kids funded from people earning much less

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Labour should shut up about everything until it issues a comprehensive apology for its massive immigration mistake, the most damaging policy catastrophe in decades.

    It undermined living standards and forced up costs, and is wrecking our countryside.

    And even now, Labour just want to throw money at the problem - bearing in mind, a lot of immigrants are producing a lot of kids...

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    14. baz
    Labour are moving toward if you have any money then it will be taxed to fund their socialist ideology.

    Erm. Socialist ideology??? Have you actually been living in the UK since the early 90's mate?

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Bank Levy?

    Came on, don't you realize that the banks run the country after the "too big to fail" COUP D'ETAT of 2008!

    First you MUST break the banks hegemony and create 40 banks where there are 4 - then you can start charging them tax. Try it before and you will fail. You will find that they simply reduce their tax liability by offshoring their profits.

    Get real Labour. Slaughter the BANKS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Wouldn't it be lovely if, rather than sending all parents to work and all infants into institutions as soon as possible so they all grow up as little malleable robots, the government could use the money to support a living wage so that families could perhaps raise their own children sustainably rather than needing 2 wages to run a household!

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    Nothing is truly free in this life - in the end someone somewhere is having to foot the bill.

    In this particular case; is the banks are taxed more they will simply offset it with higher charges to their customers and/or reduced dividends to shereholders - in other words; all our pension funds.

    Don't be taken in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    More tax and spend - back to the bad old days. Should be focused on decent wages and flat taxes so people could afford to pay for child care. The Socialists do not want his however they want to punish the rich ie anyone on over 50k pa.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    I agree with the educated BikerJake @36 , scrap child care! In fact scrap all government subsidies and demand a fair days pay for a fair days work. Then insist that people take responsibilities for their own children and pay their own way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Can't see it doing much an inexorable economic decline. Maybe best hope we got is make Mrs Merkel an offer she can't refuse. We import skills & rely a good deal on other nationalities to do everything else for us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    I hope Labour carry on helping the low paid employed as well as the parents.The low paid have been hit the hardest by the conservative I dont know why the cons decided to do this as they are the people who will build this country you cant keep throwing money at the rich thinking they will help the poorest
    It just does not work like that the rich know that but just carry on giving rich more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    That is EXTORTION, the childminders are half the problem as they demand so much money which inturn comes from the government"

    You seriously think it a good idea to entrust your most precious possessions (your children) to the cheapest labour you can find? Do you think that's going to attract the best and most caring skills to bring your children up if you won't do it yourself?

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    I can wait to utilise this extra 'free' childcare so I can get back to work....the cost of childcare on my previous wage meant I'd have been working for nothing.
    Luckily the husbands wage paid the bills to allow me to be a stay at home mum.

    Childcare charges are all about profit

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    The economic infrastructure is dependant on global markets rather than on national markets, most organizations which generate money are now globalized. So whether we decide to spend our way out of the deficit by creating jobs and growth in Britain's economy, or whether to experience a stage austerity, is no longer relevant when the dependant variable is on the global market.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    They keep promising to give this and that away for free.where is the money to pay it all banks will find a way to avoid any levy the rich will avoid tax rises and companies will pay no more tax here so who pays ?

  • Comment number 64.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Why not try and create an actual fix where the cost of living and a roof over your head isn't so cripplingly expensive that both parents are forced to work just to eat and not freeze in winter. Long gone are the days when mum or dad could enjoy the first few years of their childs life.

    Easier just to spend someone elses money on a band-aid though eh Labour?

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    "Ed Balls plans to raise the banking levy by £800m a year to fund the move"

    For crying out, is there any party who will sort out tax dodgers like google, starbuks, barclays, etc??? We dont need your concessions, we need law and order. Anyone who will promice and deliver that will get my unconditional support.


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