Childcare

Meeting: 
MQT on 2014-02-26
Session date: 
February 26, 2014
Reference: 
2014/1043
Question By: 
Fiona Twycross
Organisation: 
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

Do you agree that the childcare situation in London is unique to that of the rest of the country?

Answer

Answer for Childcare

Answer for Childcare

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Thanks very much, Fiona.  You ask whether the London childcare situation is different or is uniquely difficult.  I think that is absolutely correct.  The cost of childcare for children under two is 25% more expensive than in the rest of the country, and the Department for Education (DfE) has launched a London childcare fund in recognition of those particular difficulties.  I ought particularly to thank Liz Truss [Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education and Childcare], the Minister concerned, who has really taken this up in a big way and totally gets it about childcare.

 

As you know, funds are now coming in specifically for London childcare.  I am not going to pretend to you that it is magic and I am not going to pretend to you that we can solve the problem overnight, but we are well aware of the scale of the problem and we are working very hard to try to tackle it.

 

Fiona Twycross AM:  I am glad to hear you are working very hard to tackle it.  The Daycare Trust described the situation two years ago as “mission impossible for London’s families”.  It does not actually feel like it is getting much easier very quickly for them.  The Daycare Trust surveyed over 400 childcare providers, and four of the top five policy proposals they backed in tackling the London childcare crisis required you to take action as Mayor of London.

 

Among other things they called on you to lobby for reversal of the tax credit cut, promote family friendly practice and childcare vouchers, include early years in your Education Inquiry and promote a Know Your Rights campaign on childcare.  Obviously we have already discussed the Know Your Rights campaign quite a lot today already.  Which of these actions have you specifically taken up?

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  From what you said at least three of them.

 

Fiona Twycross AM:  You could not say which ones, though?

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  The reversal of the benefit reforms because, as I say, I do not believe that is the right way forward for the country and, indeed, nor when it comes to the election does the Labour Party.  You have to change the way benefits work in order to encourage people to get into jobs.

 

Fiona Twycross AM:  They cannot get into jobs if they cannot afford the childcare to allow them to, and that is one of the reasons that we just need you to back.

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Of course, and I cannot tell you how often I had this conversation with people and mothers who want to get back into work.  I accept that this is a major problem.

 

Fiona Twycross AM:  Yes, actually I would like to know how often you have that conversation.

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  That is one of the reasons why we did secure funding from the DfE for schools to be open from 8.00am to 6.00pm, so that somebody - and these are very often the best places to do this - can look after the kids.  As I say, I am not going to pretend to you that we in the GLA are able to deliver a one-size-fits-all magic solution to this.  We are not the delivery authority concerned.  Unfortunately, I have very limited statutory powers over education let alone childcare.

 

Fiona Twycross AM:  No, I agree, and actually one of the suggestions you did not take up from Labour in our budget earlier in the month was to launch an investigation into childcare, which would have cost a very small amount to do.  If you took a lead on this and worked with third sector parties, childcare professionals and civic organisations to assess new models for childcare provision, and the potential for devolving powers and finance in relation to childcare from Government to yourself, this could actually make a massive difference.  Therefore, would you look into this further?

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Look, again, as ever, I am grateful to you for the concealed vote of confidence there in the Mayoralty.

 

Fiona Twycross AM:  Actually not.  We are looking to the future, you see.  We have given up on you.

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  You are right in your analysis; it would be a good thing if we were able to take a more strategic lead on this.  Obviously, this is something that I think is absolutely crucial to solve.

 

Fiona Twycross AM:  Will you look into this further?

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  What is happening at the moment is that Munira Mirza [Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture] has convened and the local authorities concerned brought Liz Truss in to try to work out a way forward for London.  I am more than happy to alert Munira to your request for a further investigation into childcare in London.

 

Fiona Twycross AM:  Thank you.

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I see absolutely no reason why that should not be produced.  By the way, it seems quite a good subject for an Assembly report.

 

Fiona Twycross AM:  Yes.  We did do a report.  In the past there have been a number of reports, so it would be good if all of those could be taken on board as well.  Thank you.

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Good.  It might be time for another one.