Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson pledges to ‘completely transform’ childcare to deliver landmark reforms to benefit millions of families
Childcare in England would be “completely transformed” if Labour wins power to offer comprehensive support from the end of parental leave through all primary school years, Bridget Phillipson said on Thursday.
In an interview with The Standard, the shadow education secretary pledged to “completely reimagine the childcare system” to deliver landmark reforms to benefit millions of families.
Ahead of Labour’s annual rally in Liverpool where she will unveil the first stage of the shake-up, she said: “We need a complete transformation in how we deliver childcare right across our country… it has always been piecemeal, we have had different bits added to the system.“
We need to create a modern childcare system that provides comprehensive support from the end of parental leave right to the end of primary school and recognises how modern families live their lives today.
“You look at the big changes we have seen under Labour governments in the past, whether that’s post 1945 the creation of the welfare state, you rise to the moment and recognise what needs to change but also look to the future.”
She highlighted research showing annual average afterschool club costs in London having soared from £1,850 to just over £3,000 in the last decade.“
Availability of childcare in London is a real issue, as well as the cost of it… and it does mean that it’s often women in particular who are forced to give up work as a result,” she added, stressing that modern childcare had to be good for the children, parents and the economy.
In Liverpool, Labour will portray itself as “ready to change Britain” and will set out a clear choice, arguing it is on the side of working people and trying to paint the new Truss government as supporting the wealthy including by being prepared to lift the cap on bankers’ bonuses.
At the heart of the Labour pitch will be a pledge to transform public services, with a focus on the NHS, fighting crime, education and childcare.“
With every change that we’re setting out we are clear about how we will fund it,” said Ms Phillipson, insisting her party takes “seriously our responsibilities and how we manage the public finances”.
She highlighted Labour’s plan to scrap tax benefits for private schools, a move which she claimed would free up £1.7bn to pay towards more teachers, better mental health support and work experience for children, though this one example would only go a limited way to funding major reforms.
With Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng set to unleash a wave of tax cuts in a mini-Budget on Friday, Ms Phillipson says Labour will make the case for a fairer tax system, signalling that the wealthy would pay more.
“We need a fairer taxation system right across the board. So for example, around non doms, also a much fairer system when it comes to business rates and support we need to see for our high streets,” she said.
“So reform of our taxation system. It can’t be right that increasingly this burden falls to working people… we should look across the board at how we make sure those with the broader shoulders are making a contribution towards our country’s success.”
Ms Phillipson describes herself as having arrived at Westminster “as a slightly chippy Northerner”.
Her rise to one of the most senior posts in Sir Keir Starmer’s shadow cabinet offers the party a useful response to Tory jibes that its leadership is dominated by a north London clique.
And, perhaps more significantly, her Houghton and Sunderland South constituency gives her a good view of the “Red Wall” – the block of northern and Midlands seats which abandoned Labour at the last election in 2019 and which Sir Keir must win back if he is to stand a chance of forming the next Labour government.
“Over the summer I spent quite a lot of time out on visits and knocking on doors, right across the Northeast, including in seats that we will need to win back next time,” she said.
“There’s a real sense of disappointment with the Government, particularly those who voted Conservative for the first time in 2019. They’ll frequently say that they voted for change. And not only has nothing changed, but life has got tougher.
“They’re coming back to Labour,” she insisted, while stressing: “We can’t be complacent about that.”
Sir Keir is determined to use the next few days in Liverpool to show he has shifted his party firmly away from the Corbyn era to the centre ground; for the first time the conference will start with a rendition of the national anthem.
But with railway workers, teachers and nurses threatening more industrial action this autumn and winter, the shadow of industrial action and a clash with Labour’s union backers looms large over the conference.“
There will be disagreements between members,” Ms Phillipson admitted, while arguing: “I think we’re very united as a party. We’re focused on looking outwards.”
She expects the next General Election, expected in 2024, to be a “tough fight”.
But, striking a note of confidence, she stressed: “It’s not a question of the Government losing the election. It’s our election to win if we set out that positive compelling case about the change we need in our country.
“Labour’s under new leadership and we’re ready to change Britain.”
This article originally appeared in The Evening Standard