Sure Start under threat: Tories tear up pledge to protect Sure Start funding

Posted: 06/07/09

The Conservatives have binned their pledge to protect early years scheme Sure Start from spending cuts if they are elected.

Speaking to Regeneration & Renewal, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Phillip Hammond, refused to re-affirm a previous Conservative guarantee that the overall budget of the Labour government's flagship early years programme would be ring-fenced. "We will be looking at individual projects and workstreams, but we haven't made announcements about individual budgets yet," he said.

Last year, at the Tory Party conference, Oliver Letwin, chair of the party's policy review, said that Sure Start would continue under a Tory government at the same level to which Labour was committed. "Sure Start is a programme we value and one we intend to continue," he said. "It will not be cut back."

But now Hammond has signalled that the programme would be subject to the same scrutiny and possible ten to 15 per cent cuts subjected to all departments.

He also confirmed that, as previously announced, the Tories would take part of Sure Start's budget to fund health visits to vulnerable families with newborn children.

This would mean closing 1 in every 5 Sure Start Childrens Centres or 100 of the 500 Centres Labour has opened across the capital; Centres which are giving thousands of Londoners, including many in Westminster, a better start in life.

A spokesman for childcare charity the Daycare Trust said: "We seriously hope that it is not official Conservative Party policy to remove Sure Start's ring-fenced funding. Sure Start has grown into a much needed and valued public service for families, and parents will rightly be angered if its funding is threatened."