Balls to unveil childcare plan

Working parents will receive 25 hours of free childcare a week under a Labour government for any children they have aged three and four, Ed Balls will pledge.

The shadow chancellor intends to increase the number of hours covered by state funding to households where single parents or both parents in a couple hold down jobs. It comes on top of Labour’s pledge at the start of its autumn conference in Brighton to provide wraparound care through schools to help ease the childcare burden for families.

Mr Balls will make the announcement in a speech to activists where he will also attempt to underline the party’s “iron discipline” on spending in the run-up to the 2015 general election.

He has dismissed as “nonsense” Conservative claims of a £27.9 billion “black hole” in Labour’s tax-and-spend plans, telling ITV1’s Daybreak: “There are no uncosted spending commitments. There will be no more day-to-day borrowing from Labour in 2015.”

And he called on Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to offer cross-party support for minor changes to the charter of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) which would allow the spending watchdog to audit the tax-and-spend promises in Labour’s manifesto.

Mr Balls told Daybreak: “We think this is something we can get cross-party support for, to say that the Government and the opposition should have that independent scrutiny and audit, so when we say in our manifesto this is our tax promise or our spending commitment, we can show the sums add up, but also the independent OBR can say they have certified and scrutinised that.

“It’s about rebuilding trust in politics. There is cross-party support for the OBR and I want this to be for governments and oppositions. I am confident that when the Government thinks about this they will give us that cross-party support.”

Conservative Treasury minister Sajid Javid said: “Ed Balls knows this is not allowed under the Budget Responsibility Act and the OBR’s charter, so this is just a stunt to try and distract attention from the fact that Labour have been found out for making unfunded commitments that would just mean more borrowing and more debt.”

Mr Balls will use his conference speech to outline how Labour will tackle the so-called “cost of living crisis” by reforming spending priorities. That includes increasing free childcare for three and four-year-olds from 15 to 25 hours per week for working families while the 15-hour early years entitlement will remain universal, all funded through an increase in the bank levy.

Mr Balls is expected to tell conference: “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.”

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Balls to unveil childcare plan
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