Labour tees up election fight over childcare

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LONDON — The U.K.’s opposition Labour Party will make a major play for the votes of younger parents with a speech Thursday at a center-right think tank.

In a speech at Onward, the Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson will promise to make reforming the childcare system her “first priority in government.”

Phillipson will argue that mounting childcare costs and an insufficient number of free childcare hours is depriving parents of opportunities elsewhere.

“The childcare model the Conservatives have built fails everyone, denying parents the ability to work the jobs they’d like, to give their children the opportunities they’d like, and is not of the quality that staff want to provide,” she will say.

The party will promise 30 hours of free childcare a week if they enter government.

Childcare is likely to be a key battleground ahead of the next election, with the government also mulling its own reform proposals as families feel the pinch of inflation.

Research released this week by the think tank Nesta shows that some single parents face spending up to 80 percent of their post-tax income on childcare. A separate study by the charity Coram found that only half of local authorities in England said they have sufficient childcare places to meet the needs of full-time parents.

The brief administration of Liz Truss also planned to extend free childcare — and slash staff-to-child ratios in nurseries — as part of a suite of proposals aimed at tackling the issue.

Labour are strongly favored to win the next election, with a commanding polling lead over Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives.

The fact the Labour speech is being made at Onward — whose former director Will Tanner is now a senior member of Sunak’s Downing Street operation — will also be seen as a sign of the party attempting to park its tanks on the Tory lawn.