Wandsworth Tories Join With Labour To Challenge Gove On Childcare Funding Gap

Sheila Boswell and Sadiq Khan MP

After Labour raised concerns about the Government’s unfunded promise to increase dramatically the number of childcare places for two-year olds, Wandsworth Tories have agreed to a cross-party lobby to get the funding to pay for the plan.

Labour’s new education speaker, Sheila Boswell, gave this speech to Council on Wednesday night:

‘Big promises to increase free childcare places for disadvantaged two-year olds make great headlines. But with no guaranteed funding attached, this is yet another example of fine words from this Government on family policies – with NO clarity on how, when, and if funding will actually be provided to deliver it.

The Government’s own report states: “We propose to work with local authorities, to consider the approach to distribution of the Early Intervention Grant in time to feed into decisions about allocations for September 2013” That’s just 15 months away. Yet this does not appear to have happened.

The so-called ‘uplift grant’ of £495,000 falls far short of the estimated extra cost of £2.6million and you admit that: “ there is currently no confirmed additional Government funding approved.”
In Wandsworth where currently there are 102 free full or part-time childcare places for disadvantaged 2 year olds, with a further 86 planned. Increasing provision again by a further 700 places by 2014 will be a big challenge.
At the same time Cameron announces this unfunded plan the Tory-led Coalition is rushing to undo tried and tested Labour initiatives like SureStart, which if it had been expanded instead of being cut, could have provided the extra childcare places needed.
Despite a commitment in the coalition agreement to protect funding for Sure Start, its budget has been merged into the new local authority Early Intervention Grant, which must, in addition, fund mental health in schools, youth crime prevention schemes and teenage age pregnancy programmes.
This Government risks setting service against service, while it absolves itself of all responsibility and local councils are left to pick up the pieces with services fighting between themselves for funding. The Tories are applying a dog-eat-dog ,market approach – where there will always be losers – to such essential services as state-funded childcare for the poorest. This benefits no one.
It doesn’t make economic sense either: nationally over 30,000 mothers have given up work in the past year because they cannot find affordable childcare – that just ends up costing the taxpayer more.
The time of easy headlines for this Government is over – the opportunity to turn around disadvantaged toddlers’ lives, who through no fault of their own are born into problem families, cannot be compromised by failure to ask difficult questions and demand answers.
The Government’s own statement at the Early Intervention Grant launch said : “We want local authorities to be more transparent about what they are spending on children’s services so they can be held to account locally.” I suggest you start by holding the Government itself to account on its promise to toddlers, that without added funding they won’t be able to keep.

Wandsworth’s Education and Children’s Services Take £5m Hit

Labour has asked Wandsworth’s Tories to think again after they put forward proposals to slash almost £5m from the budgets of Schools’ and Youth services, resulting in a loss of 36 jobs. The cuts will affect the poorest areas of the borough – the Alton and Ashburton estates in Roehampton and Latchmere and Queenstown wards in Battersea.
 
Youth facilities at the Asburton Estate in Putney will have funding withdrawn and one of two centres for younger children on the Alton Estate will be closed. In Battersea funding for the Providence youth club, Generate, which provides for disabled young people, and The Islamic Youth Group is being reduced and will cease in 2013. The Doddington Estate will be affected with the closure of the Doddington Activity centre.
 
Delegations of young people, youth workers and community activists spoke passionately at Thursday’s council committee meeting. Young people feared that closure of their clubs would lead to more children hanging around on the streets and an increase in violence. Community workers were concerned that without training and professional support volunteers would be unable to fill the gap left by the reduction in full-time staff.
 
Amongst school services cut will be support for children looked after by the council, the Home and Hospital Tuition Service, which supports children who cannot attend school because of illness, and the Education Welfare Service which helps improve children’s attendance at school.
 
Cllr. Andy Gibbons said ‘At a time when there is serious concern over the future of young people in this country is it wrong to lose these valuable services and resources. And there is no denying that these cuts hit, once again, the poorest communities in the Borough.’
 
Cllr Rex Osborn said ‘We have invited the Tories to join with us in a discussion about how some of these cuts to services can be averted. We want them to look at setting up Cooperative groups and Mutual organisations like those proposed in Lambeth.’