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Charity: Political parties 'need to invest in families'

All three main political parties "need to invest in families" as they are the UK's most valuable asset, a children's charity has warned.

Anne Longfield, 4Children's chief executive, said the family vote would be "key" in the 2015 general election and called on MPs to improve childcare.

All the main political parties know that the family vote will be key at the ballot box next year.

With half of people calling for more support for children and families, it is clear that the scale of ambition needs to radically change.

Families are looking to all the parties to set out what they will do to make Britain great for children and families.

It is time for a real shift of ambition to give children and families the support they need to flourish. Families are our country's most valuable asset and political parties need to invest in them.

– Anne Longfield

Family life 'harder than ever' say almost half of Britons

Almost half of Britons feel family life has become harder over the last 30 years, a YouGov poll for a children's charity has found.

Almost half of parents feared their child's future would be worse than their own. Credit: PA

Some 46% said family life was harder in 2014 than it was three decades ago, according to charity 4Children.

Even more parents (49%) wanted the Government to do more to help them balance the demands of work and raising children in the 21st century.

Whichever party wins next year's general election should open schools from 8am to 6pm to help struggling parents cope, 4Children said.

They also wanted to see free childcare extended to 25 hours a week for all children aged between one and four by 2024, and for Sure Start to be turned into "children and family community hubs".

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Labour reaches out to 'Yes' voters

Credit: Alix Franck/ABACA

Labour is to reach out to supporters who voted for independence in last week's referendum, shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran will announce.

While there were only four local authorities where the Yes campaign won a majority, three of them were Labour controlled council areas.

In a bid to address that, Ms Curran is today expected to announce an action plan to understand why some Labour voters wanted to take Scotland out of the United Kingdom.

As part of this she and other leading figures from the party north of the border will visit the 10 parts of Scotland with the highest Yes votes.

Ms Curran will tell the Labour conference in Manchester that they need to show independence supporters that by remaining in the UK they can help create a better Scotland.

Meanwhile Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont will tell activists there that the party must address the "deficit of hope" that exists.

Their speeches to the conference comes just four days after Scotland voted by 55% to 45% to stay in the union.

Ed Balls: Labour to cap child benefit rise for two years

Child benefit would see cuts for the first two years of a Labour government, Ed Balls is expected to announce.

The shadow chancellor will say that Labour will cap child benefit for at least two years. Credit: Julian Stratenschulte/DPA/Press Association Images

The shadow chancellor will present a 1% cap on rises in the help for parents as one of the "tough decisions" necessary to deal with the deficit if the party takes power next year - claiming it will save the taxpayer £400 million over five years.

He will seek to soften the blow by cutting ministers' pay by 5% and then freezing it until the party is able to "balance the books".

Addressing activists at the Opposition's final annual conference before the general election in May, he will vow not to "flinch from the tough decisions" needed to deal with the economy.

He will tell the Manchester gathering:

I want to see child benefit rising again in line with inflation in the next parliament.

But we will not spend money we cannot afford. So for the first two years of the next parliament we will cap the rise in child benefit at 1%.

It will save £400 million in the next parliament. And all the savings will go towards reducing the deficit.

– Ed Balls, Shadow Chancellor

Miliband tries to shift attention from English votes for English laws

The Labour party conference began today with Ed Miliband trying to shift attention away from the row over English votes for English laws. But despite announcing the first of his policies ahead of next spring's election he is facing questions on little else.

ITV News Deputy Political Editor Chris Ship reports:

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What does Labour's minimum wage pledge mean?

Labour leader Ed Miliband has said a Labour government would "write the next chapter" in the battle against low pay.

Labour leader Ed Miliband Credit: PA Wire

Earnings have lagged behind inflation since the 2008 financial crisis.

The main rate is due to increase to £6.50 an hour on October 1, but Labour promised further £1.50 increase by 2020, if it wins the General Election next year.

Here is what you need to know about the pledge:

  • The £1.50 increase would be introduced in annual stages
  • It would amount to a rise of just over 4% a year
  • That is more than in recent years: Since 2010 election, the minimum wage increased on average 2.1% a year
  • The planned increase would affect around 1.4 million jobs
  • It would add around £3,000 a year to those working 40 hours week

The promised rate is said to be similar to that in force in Australia and EU countries such as Belgium and Germany, but still lower than in France and New Zealand.

Liberty: PCCs were a 'very dangerous development'

The director of civil rights lobby group Liberty said she was "delighted" that Labour pledged to scrap Police and Crime Commissioners, saying they were always a "very dangerous development".

This was always a very dangerous development from a rule of law point of view, because you directly elect a charismatic individual politician to boss the chief constable around, to hire and fire the chief constable and to meddle in operational policing.

We have seen power being used to influence chief constables, their contracts not being renewed for a long time, we've seen scandals and corruption and I think partly that's why this experiment has now failed.

It wasn't just a failed experiment, it was wrong in principle - democracy cannot exist without the rule of law, and that means independent judges and chief constables.

– Shami Chakrabarti, the director of civil rights lobby group Liberty, speaking on the Sky News' Murnaghan programme

Labour: We will replace Police Commissioners

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has said a Labour government would abolish Police and Crime Commissioners and give local communities a "policing contract" to enforce priorities like keeping police on the beat.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/Press Association Images

The model is just fundamentally flawed. It's costing too much. They spent £80 million on the original elections. It will cost £50 million to hold the next elections. It cost £3.7 million to hold the by-election in the West Midlands.

There should be a policing contract with the local community, involving councillors but also giving the public direct access in public meetings

The council and the chief constable should be jointly appointing the local police commander.

– Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper

Speaking at the start of Labour's annual conference in Manchester, Ms Cooper said that the coalition Government's introduction of directly-elected PCCs in 2012 "hasn't worked" and that scrapping the next round of PCC elections in 2016 would save £50 million which could be ploughed back into frontline policing. .

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