Sunak expands free childcare as ‘improving’ sign before polls

The Department for Education (DfE) said the childcare rollout is part of the Sunak-led government’s plan to help families, freeing thousands of couples from having to choose between having a family and a career…reports Asian Lite News

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Tuesday marked the expansion of free government-funded childcare to cover two-year-olds as a sign of things “improving” for the economy ahead of a general election expected later this year.

During a round of local radio interviews in north-east England, the PM was again asked when he plans to call an election and reiterated his previous indication of a timeline in the second half of the year.

While he came under some criticism for laughing off the question during one such exchange, Sunak insisted that the government was heading to a place where the electorate would be able to see a “brighter future” ahead.

“Last year we promised the biggest-ever expansion in childcare provision this country has ever seen, and today we are delivering on our plan with 15 hours of free childcare for parents with two-year-olds,” said Sunak.

“We want to give working families the peace of mind that they will be supported and our full expansion will save parents 6,900 pounds a year – helping to build a brighter future for families and help to grow our economy,” he said.

The Department for Education (DfE) said the childcare rollout is part of the Sunak-led government’s plan to help families, freeing thousands of couples from having to choose between having a family and a career.

“This is a landmark moment, and I am extremely proud to see we’re on track for more than 150,000 children to take up government-funded places under our new offer. This will be a lifeline for working parents, building up to this government’s plan for the most comprehensive childcare support in this country’s history by 2025,” said Education Secretary Gillian Keegan.

“Support with childcare costs has an enormous ripple effect, freeing up parents to increase their hours at work and put more money in their pockets, or giving them the security to try out a new career or passion. It also contributes to economic growth and opens up new career opportunities in a hugely rewarding sector,” she said.

The government claims it is the “largest ever expansion in childcare” which is being delivered by increasing the number of staff and places, introducing measures to boost the recruitment and retention of childminders, launching a major national recruitment campaign and providing over 400 million pounds of additional investment to uplift funding rates in 2024-25.

The DfE says the government will increase rates over the next two years by an estimated 500 million pounds, as confirmed in the Spring Budget last month.

PM squirms over poll date  

Rishi Sunak ran the local radio gauntlet Tuesday — and didn’t exactly help himself by chuckling through it.

The embattled prime minister is on a media blitz ahead of local elections a month today, and faced a tough grilling from local radio stations in the North East of England as he tried to talk up Conservative achievements.

But Sunak was repeatedly pressed by BBC Radio Tees on the question obsessing British politics-watchers: when exactly a general election will be held.

Sunak burst into laughter when asked to name the date by presenter Amy Oakden, and insisted he had “answered that question many times in the last few weeks” and was “unfortunately not” able to disclose the precise date to local radio.

An unimpressed Oakden asked Sunak: “Why is that funny? Sorry. Why are you laughing about that?”

Sunak said he’d been chuckling “because there’s a way that we’d announce general elections and it would be done in the formal and official way.”

Sunak — whose party is trailing in the polls after 14 years in office — has already ruled out a May election, but said only that his “working assumption” is that there’ll be a vote in the second half of 2024.

He told BBC Radio Newcastle Tuesday that there had been “no change” to this position. Under British rules, Sunak must call an election no later than January 28 next year, but the precise timing before then is in his gift.

Sunak is not the first prime minister to struggle with the scrutiny of local radio broadcasters, who often ask questions that stray from the usual Westminster talking points. Sunak’s predecessor Liz Truss famously came under fire in a bruising local media round during her own short-lived premiership.

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