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Big banks 'should fund childcare'

Big banks should pay for extended free childcare to help parents who are facing a "childcare crunch" of rising costs and fewer places, Ed Miliband has said.

Visiting the Learning Ladders Nursery in Battersea, south west London, the Opposition leader said: "We are very clear about the commitment of the next Labour government, which is to raise a bank levy by £800 million to pay for places for three and four-year-olds (from 15) to 25 hours a week for working parents.

"I think that is the right thing to do."

He would call for every primary school to offer 8am to 6pm childcare.

It would be the equivalent of about £1,500 a year saving for families, he said.

Labour's priority, he claimed, would be "to make the banks pay a little bit more so that we can give the best start to our kids in this country and make work pay for parents".

Mr Miliband denied claims that childcare costs are stabilising and that red tape put in place by the last Labour government was behind the price rises.

"What the figures show is that childcare costs are rising by 30% in just three years and that is combined with fewer places for so many parents, " he claimed.

"I think the reality is that they are finding it an in credible struggle to find the childcare they need - seven out of 10 mums are saying 'I want to go back to work' but the cost of childcare are a barrier to them doing so."

Mr Miliband also reasserted Labour claims that about 578 children's centres had closed, despite the Government claiming the number was only 45.

"We are simply relying on the Government's figures which show that the number of children's centres has fallen from about 3,600 to just over 3,000," he added.

"Parents are facing fewer Sure Start centres and fewer childcare places at a time when the need is rising, not falling."

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