October 24 2014 Latest news:
Annabelle Dickson, Political Edtior
Friday, April 4, 2014
Childcare is a “crucial issue” for Norwich mums, dads, nurseries and pre-schools with “affordability and quality” on their list of concerns, MP Chloe Smith has said.
In a Westminster Hall debate she cited her constituent “Mr C” who she said had told her that he would be worse off if his wife went out to work.
Ms Smith called for measures to make it easier for new providers to enter the market and for good existing providers to expand, adding that it would bring “consequent benefits in both affordability and quality”.
She told parliament that Magdalen Gates pre-school in north Norwich wanted to expand, but was concerned about the sheer scale of the project of extending a building.
“As child carers, they do not feel that that is an area in which they have expertise, but as they are on an enclosed city site, it is one of the few things that they could do to provide more places.”
She urged her Norfolk colleague and childcare minister Elizabeth Truss to explain what she was doing to set such sites free from bureaucracy.
Ms Truss praised Ms Smith on her work to “get under the skin” of the issues, claiming that she was working to make life easier for both high-quality child care providers and parents. Ms Truss said she had struggled with the affordability of child care.
“We have also got rid of planning restrictions, so nurseries now have the same planning freedoms as schools. They may convert commercial premises into nurseries without having to obtain planning permission,” she added.
Norwich North prospective candidate Jessica Asato said her opponent had quite rightly raised the “shocking cost of childcare”, claiming
the average per year now exceeded yearly mortgage payments in Norfolk.
But she accused Ms Smith of cutting child tax credits while a minister, which she claimed had forced many mums to make a choice between work or staying at home to look after the children.