Labour 'would scrap nursery vouchers'

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Indy Politics
Labour would withdraw the Government's nursery vouchers within a year of being elected and would offer a free part-time place to every four-year-old within 18 months, the party's education spokesman said yesterday

David Blunkett declined to say how long it would take the party to fulfil its commitment to a nursery place for every three-year-old or to full- time places for four-year-olds, however. Detailed figures on how many new teachers would need to be trained were not available.

Launching a campaign against the nursery voucher scheme, which began in four areas this week, Mr Blunkett said Labour would honour existing vouchers which had already been sent to parents but would withdraw them after that. He added that the pounds 20m cost of administering vouchers would be put into providing education for four-year-olds - at present the pounds 1,100 voucher can only buy a part-time place.

"Anyone who is using a voucher will be entitled to continue receiving that place on the basis that they are redeeming it with the voucher. We are denying no one a place that they would be entitled to under the scheme," he said.

Parents using vouchers in private nurseries or play groups might be able to continue sending them there under Labour if the local authority funded the places, Mr Blunkett said recently.

Yesterday he released figures showing that local authorities could have more than pounds 565m withdrawn from their budgets if the scheme went national next year as planned. The money, currently being spent on the under-fives by those authorities, would be used by the government to provide vouchers.