Southwark Liberal Democrats have announced they will offer free childcare to local parents if they win control of the council this year, in what is set to be the group’s flagship policy going into May’s local elections.
All two, three and four-year olds will be given an extra one day a month of childcare under the plan, on top of the free hours already offered by the Government.
It would save families an average of £448 per child in nursery costs, as well as helping Mums and Dads get back into work or take on more hours.
The policy was debated at a Council Assembly meeting last night (Wed 22 January), with a motion being put forward by Liberal Democrat councillors calling on the council to help out local parents with the cost of childcare.
Liberal Democrats in Government have made sure that three and four-year olds are entitled to 15 hours a week of free care, as are disadvantaged two-year olds. The free childcare offer by Liberal Democrats in Southwark would see that topped up by another eight hours a month, to be taken as parents choose. It would be administered by the council and available for all toddlers in Southwark.
The fully costed plan would be paid for by savings made elsewhere, including the £1.5m savings thanks to the Coalition Government’s funding of free school meals. The rest will come from changes to other areas of spending, and a reduction in the council’s unspent ‘contingency fund’.
A Liberal Democrat administration would also commit to trimming the council’s £9 million bill for catering, taxis and spin doctors.
The policy has been put together by Liberal Democrat councillors after discussions and meetings with local parents. Many said the cost of childcare meant they could not afford to work the hours they wanted, and in some cases could not get back into work at all.
Childcare in the UK is ranked amongst the most expensive in the world. In 2008, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimated the average working household in the UK pays 27% of their income towards childcare – well above the OECD average of 11.8%.
Commenting, the Leader of Southwark Council’s Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr Anood Al-Samerai, said:
"Paying for childcare is a huge financial burden for families in Southwark, and very often the main reason stopping new parents from getting back into work. After talking to local Mums and Dads it is clear that action is needed to bring down the cost. That’s why Southwark Liberal Democrats will be putting free childcare at the heart of our manifesto for May’s local elections."
"This is a fully funded policy which will save local parents £448 a year and help boost our local economy at the same time. We want to show we are on the side of local families who want to bring down living costs and get on in life."