Clegg dismisses Tory nursery anger
Nick Clegg has dismissed Tory anger at his decision to block nursery staffing ratio changes - flatly denying that he ever signed up to them.
The Deputy Prime Minister said the proposals were widely opposed by parents and experts, and could have pushed costs up.
The intervention effectively ended a coalition stand-off over the key plank of flagship childcare reforms.
Proposals announced by Conservative education minister Liz Truss were due to see rules on nurseries and childminders eased from September.
Each member of staff would have been able to look after four children aged under one rather than three. The ratio for two-year-olds would have risen from four to six per adult. But childcare experts raised concerns about the move and last month Mr Clegg said he was not persuaded the changes were right.
The Liberal Democrat leader has now written to Ms Truss telling her the plans did not have his support, effectively blowing them out of the water.
Speaking on his regular LCB 97.3 phone-in, Mr Clegg said the proposals had only ever been cleared to go out for consultation. "What I said, by the way, very, very clearly, was that we can only decide on this when we have heard the response of people who frankly know better than any politician what it is like to look after four, five, six two-year-old toddlers," he insisted.
Mr Clegg said replies to the consultation from nurseries, parents' groups and other experts overwhelmingly suggested it was a bad idea.
Shadow children's minister Sharon Hodgson said: "This just goes to show that David Cameron does not have a credible plan to help families access good quality, affordable childcare. The Government's own experts were agreed that cutting childcare staff numbers would have seriously endangered quality and safety, and would not have cut costs to parents."
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said: "We are absolutely delighted that the Deputy Prime Minister has intervened and listened to the concerns and evidence gathered by the sector, parents and early years experts which dismantled the arguments for taking forward this ill-advised plan. The sector is supportive of the Government's aims to raise the status and quality of the childcare workforce. But this proposal was not the way to achieve this."