Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/202/8470
Socialist Councillors Force Climbdown On Childcare Charges
COVENTRY LABOUR council have had to withdraw proposals to increase 'Wraparound' charges by 76% for low-income families. 'Wraparound' is the scheme of after-school care provided by the city council.
Like many other Labour councils throughout Britain they are making a mockery of pledges to bring in improved, extra childcare. They are using the fact that low-income families are supposedly receiving extra cash from Working Families Tax Credit as a justification for massive increases in charges.
As has been the case with other Labour promises on education, the spin is far removed from the substance. New Labour government minister Margaret Hodge pledged to create 1.4 million new child care places for young children.
Yet, under the guise of introducing new, improved after-school childcare services, Labour councils - such as in Hammersmith and Camden amongst others - have in reality proposed cuts and increased charges which provoked huge opposition campaigns amongst parents and staff.
Similarly, Coventry council were proposing to increase charges by 76% but were forced to withdraw them for 'further consideration' after fierce and detailed criticism from Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist.
Dave, a councillor for St Michael's and leader of the Socialist Group, pointed out how the increased charges would hit low-income families hardest of all, despite the council's spin on the issue.
The Labour council Cabinet member for Education had proposed that the overall hourly charges rise by 10%. He also wanted to move families which receive Childcare Tax Credit from the current position of paying a reduced fee of 85p per hour to the full rate of £1.50 per hour.
Dave Nellist said the council was trying to justify the "huge leap in charges by selective examples which only told part of the story" and exposed as "simply not true" the council's claims that the new rates would still leave a low-income family £6.99 a week better off than before the introduction of Labour's Working Family Tax Credit.
Dave added: "Even under the last Tory government, families paying for after school care had increased entitlement to Family Credit, the forerunner to Working Family Tax Credit. The council's proposed rise to £1.50 an hour would be a straight 76% rise in charges for low-income families. They'd be worse off, not better off."
Dave Nellist wants the council to go further than simply withdrawing and reviewing its proposals. He said: "I believe charges should be frozen and the council should lobby the government for sufficient extra funds to both expand Wraparound and all after-school clubs, so that they can be provided free of charge."
We demand a network of good quality publicly funded childcare, including pre-school, after school and holiday schemes, accessible to all parents who want them.
In The Socialist 20 April 2001: