Childcare costs ‘tip of iceberg’ for Hackney families: Mayor of Hackney responds to spring budget
Mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville, responds to the Spring Budget 2023.
Childcare costs in inner London are among the highest in the country and it’s welcome that the Government has finally begun to acknowledge the burden on families in today’s budget – even if the real motivation isn’t reversing this key cause of hardship in places like Hackney.
But pouring money into a childcare crisis caused by staff shortages and rising costs won’t work unless the Government addresses why the system is broken to begin with. Matching what could be a huge increase in families looking for childcare with more nursery places supply won’t happen overnight, and top-down proposals such as increasing the number of children each staff member can care for can only diminish the quality of care. To add insult to injury, most of these reforms don’t come into action for over a year, yet families need urgent support today. These proposals are simply too little, too late, and don’t come anywhere close to providing the support many are desperately needing in this cost of living crisis.
Last week we launched the Hackney Commission into Affordable Childcare, bringing together the Council, parents and childcare providers to find solutions that work for every child. We need government investment, but it’s only through understanding and addressing this crisis at a local level that we can turn headlines into high quality, affordable and sustainable childcare.
If the promised funding for childcare does at last show a Government recognising the benefits of investment over austerity, it only further highlights why this budget is a failed opportunity to take a big step on the journey to net zero. There is no mention of investment in insulating homes and generating clean home-grown energy – not that this is stopping us in Hackney. Nor has the Government listened to calls from councils to use the estimated £400m that the Treasury receives each year by taxing vehicles in London on electric vehicle charging, cleaner public transport or vehicle scrappage schemes here in the capital.
And, while childcare is unaffordable for so many families, it’s the tip of the iceberg when housing costs have rocketed over more than a decade and at least one child in every classroom is homeless. The Government’s budget had not a paragraph on raising Local Housing Allowance to help low-income households avoid homelessness; not a sentence on boosting emergency funding to support residents in financial crisis; and not a word on investment in new affordable housing or helping to maintain existing council homes.
Until the Government recognises the need for real investment to fund a new generation of genuinely affordable homes and matches the benefit system with true living costs by raising housing benefit levels, even reduced childcare costs will tip families’ budgets over the edge. It’s clear that instead they’ve prioritised tax cuts for the wealthy, including changes to pensions, and more short sighted quick fixes.
On a day where teachers, tube workers and junior doctors are all on strike, the clue that the age of austerity isn’t over is Chancellor’s failure to even acknowledge public sector pay. Nor is there any investment in vital local government services like adult social care, public health and children’s services, all of which would have supported the most vulnerable while helping economic growth and people back into work.
Finally, if ministers expect support with childcare to encourage parents back into work, they must also help businesses to survive and grow so they have jobs to go to. The Treasury has again failed to provide the targeted support needed to the businesses most vulnerable to the cost of living crisis, but more importantly has barely put a sticking plaster on the underlying causes of this crisis to begin with – whether it’s the dysfunctional childcare system, broken housing market, or fair access to employment. Only a joined up economic strategy between national, regional and local government can make that difference.