Ministers back down over childcare infrastructure issue in Commons

Move comes after cross-party push and means major housebuilders could be obliged to pay towards new facilities

Ministers have backed down in the face of a cross-party push for childcare to be treated as an infrastructure issue like schools, GPs and public transport, meaning major housebuilders could be obliged to pay towards new childcare facilities.

The campaign was led by the Labour MP Stella Creasy, who argued that the issue of new homes being built without accompanying childcare was exacerbating a national shortfall in provision that has resulted in prices rising to levels unaffordable for many parents.

Ending a Commons debate on the levelling-up and regeneration bill, the levelling up minister Lucy Frazer said the government now accepted that childcare fell under the formal definition of infrastructure. This means childcare provision will qualify for money from a local infrastructure levy, which can be imposed on developers who are building new housing.

“The position is that childcare facilities, that is buildings including those that are not attached to schools, are included within the meaning of infrastructure, and they can therefore be funded through the levy,” Frazer told MPs. “In addition to that, there is the power in the bill already to regulate to allow for funding of services such as childcare.”

Creasy had tabled an amendment to the levelling-up and regeneration bill, which was in the Commons on Tuesday for the final part of its committee stage. Her amendment was signed by MPs from four parties, including several Conservatives. One of the Tory MPs was Robin Walker, a former education minister who now chairs the education select committee.

Creasy hailed the change of stance and pulled her amendment, but warned she would be watchful to see whether new money materialised.

“We have finally dragged the government into accepting that childcare is part of infrastructure and should be funded by local councils if they want to do so,” she said. “Now we need to make sure they don’t renege on the money desperately needed so that parents as well as potholes get the investment our economy needs.”

Walker, speaking in the Commons, told Frazer he also welcomed the government move, saying the levelling up bill could also reflect results from an upcoming inquiry into childcare by the education select committee inquiry when it goes through the Lords.

Research carried out in support of Creasy’s plan had shown that since 2014, in 116 of 149 English local authorities, the rate of population growth was greater than the growth of the childcare sector. This included 15 of the 20 areas with the highest population growth.

A shortage of childcare places has exacerbated other inflationary pressures, with the cost of provision forecast to go up by as much as 19% next year, prompting many parents to reduce how much childcare they use, or even give up work.


Peter Walker Political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Childcare should be classed as necessary ‘infrastructure’, say MPs
Plan would mean new developments must have sufficient provision of free or subsidised childcare up to age 11

Peter Walker Political correspondent

12, Dec, 2022 @7:00 AM

Article image
Sunak's jobs plan must be backed by childcare funding, say MPs
Chancellor failed to offer financial help to nurseries in summer statement

Heather Stewart Political editor

09, Jul, 2020 @3:56 PM

Article image
Parents in England spending up to 80% of pay on childcare
Two other studies also show there are insufficient places in half of the country’s councils

Kiran Stacey, Sarah Marsh and Carmen Aguilar García

08, Mar, 2023 @10:00 PM

Article image
Labour promise of free breakfasts ‘first step on the road to rebuilding childcare’
Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson to announce plan to fund breakfast clubs in every primary school

Jessica Elgot Deputy political editor

28, Sep, 2022 @5:01 AM

Article image
Free preschool childcare for all would boost UK growth, report finds
Labour-welcomed study finds initiative would save families thousands of pounds, cut benefits spending and raise tax revenues

Aletha Adu Political correspondent

06, Dec, 2022 @12:01 AM

Article image
Children in mental health crisis spent more than 900,000 hours in A&E in England
Exclusive: Children as young as three in emergency departments for mental health problems, data obtained by Labour reveals

Denis Campbell Health policy editor

09, Feb, 2023 @7:55 PM

Article image
Childcare voucher changes delayed after Commons debate
Government agrees to keep system open for six more months after pressure from Labour

Peter Walker and Anne Perkins

13, Mar, 2018 @7:53 PM

Article image
Treasury considering huge expansion of free childcare in England
Exclusive: plan for one- and two-year-olds would cost billions and is among options being looked at

Rowena Mason, Jessica Elgot and Kiran Stacey

10, Feb, 2023 @6:21 PM

Ministers retreat over tax relief on childcare

• Benefit to be halved, not axed, for better-off parents
• Concession likely to delay free nursery places pledge

Allegra Stratton, political correspondent

03, Dec, 2009 @7:44 PM

Article image
Speaker announces review on bringing babies into Commons
Stella Creasy asked for clarification after she was reprimanded for having infant son with her in parliament

Jessica Elgot, Peter Walker and Alexandra Topping

24, Nov, 2021 @1:07 PM