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Balls denies bust-up with Miliband over fees policy

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has denied having a 'bust-up' with Labour leader Ed Miliband over their party's tuition fees policy.

Ed Balls has denied a rift with Ed Miliband Credit: Anthony Devlin/Joel Goodman/Press Association Images

Reports of a rift over the finer details of the policy emerged ahead of its public release later this week but Balls denied any conflict saying he and Miliband agreed on the need for a "fairer system" of student finance and there had been "no big bust-up" on issues.

Balls told LBC Radio: "The thing is, the current system of student finance is not working for students who are paying more and for the taxpayer, which has got a massive, growing burden of debt because of this failed policy.

"In the next few days we will set out, clearly, our policy and I think ... if you are a student you will like it."

Childcare costs 'rocket by a third'

The spiralling cost of childcare may come as no surprise to many parents but the scale might. In just five years, it's gone up by a third.

A part-time nursery place now costs an average £6,000 a year. One children's charity says that means, for many families, work simply doesn't pay.

Expert: Heavy state regulation pushes up childcare costs

Heavy state regulation on childcare providers qualifications, nursery safety measures and nursery staff-to-children ratios have all contributed to pushing up the cost of childcare to make it "more unaffordable than ever", an economic expert said today.

Mark Littlewood, Director general at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: "The exceptionally high cost of childcare in the UK has been pushed up by the increasing formalisation of the industry."

Heavy state regulation has been blamed by one expert for spiraling childcare costs Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Commenting on statistics released by the Family and Childcare Trust which showed the cost of sending a toddler to nursery part-time has risen by around a third over the past five years, Littlewood also said that deregulation of the industry may be the solution to spiraling costs.

He said: “Further subsidies will do nothing to address the underlying causes of the high cost of childcare in the UK, but merely transfer more of the cost to taxpayers.

"Deregulating the sector as well as shifting the emphasis away from childcare becoming a form of pre-primary education will bring down costs considerably."

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  1. Chris Choi

'Rising childcare costs make going back to work hard'

Laura wants to go back to work but rising child care costs mean it's hard to make that pay. I spoke to her as a new report shows nursery prices have rocketed 32.8% in five years.

Laura says rising child care costs mean it's hard to make going back to work pay

Laura would have to pay the same in childcare as she spends on rent and as "middle earners" her family doesn't qualify for benefits.

She's struggling to see how prices can have gone up so much while wages and inflation have not.

Lack of government funding 'to blame for childcare costs'

Experts have blamed a shortfall in government funding for the spiralling cost of childcare.

As a report warns that prices have rocketed by almost a third in five years - topping £6,000 a year for the first time in history - the Pre-school Learning Alliance said it was "unsurprising" that costs were on the rise.

For many years now, government funding for the free entitlement schemes for two-, three- and four-year-olds has failed to meet the cost of the providing these places, leaving childcare providers to make up the shortfall.

As a result, many providers have been forced to increase the cost of paid-for hours just to stay afloat.

The Alliance has long warned that a failure to address this shortfall would lead to cost rises, but the Department for Education has consistently chosen to ignore this problem. Clearly, this cannot continue.

– Neil Leitch, Pre-school Learning Alliance

Chief executive Neil Leitch called for a review of the free entitlement funding system.

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