Gordon Brown’s plan to alter the current childcare scheme has been attacked by nine former ministers in a letter to Downing Street
The prime minister was warned that his decision to cut childcare would not stand well with hard-working parents and is likely to result in an untimely loss of support in the runup to the election. The former ministers, including Patricia Hewitt, Estelle Morris, Hilary Armstrong, Beverley Hughes and Caroline Flint, urged the government to reconsider the decision in light of the impact that removing tax relief will have on parents, employers and the childcare sector.
Brown’s reason behind the removal of tax relief for employer-based childcare vouchers is that too much of the money is going to the middle classes. Brown plans to replace the voucher system with 10 hours of free childcare for 250,000 two-year-olds by 2015. But removing vouchers, which are thought to save parents up to £2,400 a year on the cost of nurseries, nannies or childminders, is unlikely to satisfy parents who use the current system.
More than 70,000 people have signed a petition on the Downing Street website criticising Brown’s decision and urging him to reconsider. Signatories include the former Scotland Office minister David Cairns, former Europe minister Denis MacShane, and the former international development minister Sally Keeble.
Critics believe that the government’s decision to change the current childcare scheme is based on out-of-date figures, and that the latest surveys suggested 74% of the users of the scheme are basic-rate taxpayers as opposed to higher-rate taxpayers. Downing Street has agreed to carefully consider the lodged concerns in advance of the pre-budget report.