Government U-turn over book scheme cuts

The Government said today it will continue funding a scheme providing free books for children to encourage a love of reading following a furious backlash from authors over plans to scrap state support.

Labour leader Ed Miliband, who has been pressing the Government to restore funding for Booktrust, tonight wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron urging him to make clear exactly how much the charity would receive.



"On school sport we saw a mean-minded decision made without consultation or regard for the consequences where you had to perform a partial U-turn. We are seeing that again here," he wrote.



"Today, the Department of Education appears to be starting to backtrack amid the outcry from parents, children and authors. But there is no clarity at all.



"It now falls to you to get a grip on this fiasco and provide some reassurance that a scheme on the lines of the current programme will be maintained, with a clear statement about the amount of investment that will be provided."

















Leading children's author Philip Pullman and former poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion were among the writers to speak out after it was announced that the Booktrust was to lose its annual £13 million Government grant.



But in a joint statement, the Department for Education (DFE) and Booktrust said that the DFE would now continue to finance the programme which benefits 3.3 million children a year in England.



"The Department for Education and Booktrust are determined to ensure that reading for pleasure is a gift every child can enjoy. That is why the DFE will continue to fund Booktrust book-gifting programmes in the future," the statement said.



"Although the current contract will end in April the department is talking to Booktrust about how to develop a new programme which will ensure that every child can enjoy the gift of books at crucial moments in their lives while ensuring we develop an even more effective way of supporting the most disadvantaged families to read together.



"The department and Booktrust will be working together, with publishers, in order to ensure that we can make every possible saving in developing an enhanced programme."



The apparent U-turn comes hard on the heels of Education Secretary Michael Gove's hurried retreat over plans to axe funding for the School Sports Partnership scheme in England, which had been slated to close.







Earlier, Booktrust chief executive Viv Bird said she had been "immensely surprised and disappointed" to hear the charity was to lose all its state support, having previously been told it would be cut by 20%.



Sir Andrew described scrapping the grant as an "act of gross cultural vandalism" while Mr Pullman - the author of the His Dark Materials trilogy - accused the Government of "wanton destruction".



"Sheer stupid vandalism, like smashing Champagne bottles as a drunken undergraduate," Mr Pullman told The Observer. "If you miss the first years of a child's development, nothing can clear it up. It's gone. It won't happen. A whole generation will lose out."



Sir Andrew said that the Booktrust was "a national institution, and the envy of the world". While the savings made by its abolition would be "negligible", he said, the damage done would be "immense".



The charity, operating since 1992 and Government-funded since 2004, aims to provide Bookstart packs to parents when their babies are born and then further books at later stages in their development.



Its co-founder, Wendy Cooling, was awarded the MBE in 2008 for services to children's literacy.







Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Direct Mail Machine Operative

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an i...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Day In a Page

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US