Ipswich: Harman hits out at childcare costs during visit to town

Harriet Harman with Bill Knowles and Sandy Martin at a meeting of the Ipswich Labour Party

Harriet Harman with Bill Knowles and Sandy Martin at a meeting of the Ipswich Labour Party - Credit: Archant

The cost of childcare has been rising faster in East Anglia than anywhere else in the country according to new figures from an independent family charity.

Between 2011 and 2012 the average cost of sending a youngster to a childminder or after-school club in the region increased by between 32% and 38%. The cost of sending children to nurseries went up by about 9% – again among the largest rises in the country.

The figures were produced by the Family and Childcare Trust – and showed that it now costs more than £100 to keep a child in a nursery or with a childminder for 25 hours a week in this region. After school care averages between £50 and £66 a week.

A spokeswoman for the Family and Childcare Trust said costs had gone up in East Anglia disproportionately due to the “cost creep” from London.

She said: “The costs of childcare are higher in London than anywhere else and this is spilling out, particularly where there is an increase in the population of commuter parents.

“There are also gaps in provision which drives up costs because supply is not meeting demand where it is needed.”

There were also pressures in rural areas, because it was more difficult to plug gaps in childcare in these areas.

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The figures were seized on by deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman who was visiting Ipswich yesterday.

As she prepared for a meeting with party members Ms Harman said: “The cost of local childcare is rising much faster than wages and in the east the cost of childcare for a child under two has risen faster in than any other region.

“Children and families in the eastern region are paying the price for the cost of living crisis caused by David Cameron’s government.”

She said her party was committed to making it easier for parents to return to work – by increasing the amount of free childcare on offer.

“Labour’s plans to increase free childcare from 15 to 25 hours for working parents of three and four-year-olds would give them the freedom to get back to work, helping the parents of 49,050 children in East Anglia alone.”

The party estimates that 5,600 families in Suffolk would be eligible for the scheme.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer did not think much of Ms Harman’s intervention. He said: “Harriet Harman’s figures are wrong on childcare but I shall leave that to one side.

“The fact is I have voted to reduce income tax for families, frozen fuel duty, freeze Council Tax and cut National Insurance.

“Harriet voted in every instance against those cuts. Ipswich people are rightly wary of politicians spreading stories.

“I am happy to be judged on what I have done, in difficult circumstances, to make things easier for families in the town. There is more to do but we have made good progress in turning things around.”