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 1401.

    Who belives Ed Balls? Who is he???? Oh he is the guy who had alot of ministerial jobs and away from bla bla bla bla he messed everyone of them up....

  • rate this

    Comment number 1400.

    The Labour Party have a remarkably short memory and a complete lack of any policies.
    Was it not a Labour government that almost bankrupted the country?
    Was it not a Labour government that opened the door to mass uncontrolled immigration leading to over stretched services across the board?
    Take from those who work and give to those that won't should be your mantra Mr Balls(up)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1399.

    Don't fear "big business"? They only got big by people voluntarily rewarding them with profit in return for good products and services.

    If you and your employer come to an arrangement that's wonderful for you both. But, you still have no right to force strangers to pay for your children. If you cannot afford them, do not have them, same as anything else in life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1398.

    More vote-buying give-aways - traditional way of Labour currying favour. Where's the money going to come from - borrowing that's where. If Labour ever get back in it will be the end of the UK as we know it. We will become a real 3rd world country on its knees beholden to others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1397.


    Fully aware of the way the voting works but law of average tells me that if it was hitting the opposite with absolutely everything I voted on that it wasnt right at that particular time, fully expect people to be voting opposite to me but on absolutely everything????

  • rate this

    Comment number 1396.

    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 conservatives

    Although it was the last labour government that canned the 10p tax rate and made the poorest pay 20%

  • rate this

    Comment number 1395.

    The childcare costs in the UK are amongst the highest in the world, because nobody here wants to subsidize families with cheap childcare like in the rest of Europe where I am from. Parents here are forced out of work or when staying at home have to live in poverty on one salary or as single parent. A sad society that asks people not to have children if money is lacking. Children are our future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1394.

    Utterly brilliant, Ed's Picks has two pro-Labour posts right at the top, naturally, with massively negative marks and three anti-waste posts below, hugely marked up. Maybe, just maybe, people are wising up to Labour's lies, waste and bribe techniques?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1393.

    @1315.robert dearnley

    Did you go out with the ark ? There is no such thing as child allowance it disappeared years ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1392.

    There are a lot of comments about parents who "can't afford" their children.

    This scheme facilitates parents returning to work, returning to economic output, returning to paying taxes.

    What is the better alternative, parents staying at home on benefits producing no economic input?

    Childcare support is a benefit for the nation not the parent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1391.

    Those on here who are tired of paying for other peoples kids are being reminded that they themselves benefitted from this system.

    Yes this is true BUT... It was a totally different Britain then, when the welfare state was still a good idea for all, and we as a country could almost afford it.

    Those days are long gone, take a good look around and see what our taxes are paying for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1390.

    "Personally id prefer it if they spent more money on our police forces or hospitals or invest in more manufacturing"
    If you don't invest on children then who will be our future police, doctors and engineers? Oh I forgot we are selfish people who care about just present and don't care even if the country is destroyed in future because we don't have children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1389.

    6 captainswing1 +228
    "Frankly,I am fed up to the back teeth with having to pay through my taxes for all these people and their kids.If you can'y afford to support them don't have them and don't expect the tax payer to subsidise them."

    You do realise how the system works?
    The vast majority of these children will pay for your pension etc
    If their was significantly less,ditto your pension NHS etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 1388.

    To the entirely selfish people who complain about paying for other people's children - if you remain childless, who do you think will care for you in your old age? Ah yes, other people's children! It is your choice to remain childless, just as it is for other people to have children. Stop thinking of your own little world and broaden your mind. P.S. I have no children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1387.

    If we do not have anymore children (regardless of the fact that a lot are in poverty which is a different issue) - who will look after us all when we get old as someone needs to pay taxes .


  • rate this

    Comment number 1386.

    Labour 13 years in Govt included the following: two illegal wars, uncontrolled immigration, the wrecking of the economy, cash for honours, the Human Rights Act that has stopped us from deporting terrorists, murderers and other criminals, the great gold give-away and tuition fees amongst many other assorted horrors. I'm still waiting for Blair's 5 promises from 1997 to be honoured. Labour=Liars.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1385.

    Those talking about Labour spending remember this: under the Tories, the net debt will DOUBLE in 5 years from £700bn to £1.4 trillion. The Tories don't want anyone to talk about this as it makes them look incompetent at best, criminally reckless at worst. They talk austerity, but have led the UK to a disastrous doubling of debt that will eventually cripple the UK economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1384.

    Should the taxpayer continue to shore up the feckless? No.
    The current system is stacked against young people who embark on becoming financially viable before they start a family. Breeding early with no job or prospects gets you a house and endless benefits. These passport to social welfare kids can go to hell in a hand cart as far as their parents care and certainly to school without breakfast.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1383.

    A word of advice to the labour party policy committee. Stop trying to buy votes. Promise to do something about wage inequality. Promise to go after those who were so irresponsible with our banking system and ecconomy (including within your own party) and then you will get some votes and respect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1382.

    1350. politicsofenvy
    The problem with the current capitalist practice is they steal from the poor to line the pockets of the rich.

    See, it is easy to make cheap jibes.

    Thats a lie created by socialists. The top 10% contribute 57% to the treasury. That is a ONS fact. The top 50% contribute 89% to the treasury. No one is stealing from the poor. Those who earn the most subsidise the poor.


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