Thursday, March 01, 2007

You may not be ready for this, but your kids are going to love it

Seven years ago, following increasing levels of public concern, Tony Blair went on the telly and pledged that spending on health would rise to the European average. This pledge helped to set the terms of the debate about levels of government spending and public services, and along with the strong economy ensured that Labour won the 2001 and 2005 elections.

In recent weeks, there has been increasing concern about children's well-being, with debate being sparked by the Unicef report and the shootings in South East London. The Tories have used the opportunity to make vague but fluffy sounding pronouncements about children, and pushing their right-wing agenda by suggesting tax breaks for married couples.

So here's my suggestion. The Prime Minister should go on the telly, and announce that the government would be increasing spending on children to the average of the countries where children's well being is highest. The extra money would go on things like an increase in child benefit, free school meals for all children, increasing subsidies for childcare, funds for more activities for young people during school holidays and in the evenings and free bus travel for under 16's across the country.

Each of these have been shown to be popular policies where they have been tried, and put together they would make a real impact on priorities including health, anti-social behaviour, child poverty, helping parents into work, and would open up opportunities for all children which are currently only available to those with wealthy parents. As with all of the most popular parts of the welfare state, the extra spending would benefit the vast majority of families, but would benefit families in poverty most of all. It would also motivate Labour activists, and open up clear red water between Labour and the Tories.

But best of all from the Prime Minister's point of view, it would help to secure his legacy, and would annoy Gordon Brown just as much as the pledge about health spending did.

3 Comments:

At 1:38 pm , Blogger Bloggers4Labour said...

...announce that the government would be increasing spending on children to the average of the countries where children's well being is highest.

Thr irony is that it might require a *reduction* in spending to meet the average of the countries where children's well being is highest, given the low weight the survey attached to absolute measures of wealth/poverty, and the high weight attached to vague or self-reported figures which have nothing to do with money at all.

 
At 1:57 pm , Blogger donpaskini said...

The top four countries in the Unicef survey are Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Denmark, and all of these spend more as a proportion of their total GDP on direct cash transfers to low income families and on provision of children's services than the UK does.

 
At 12:39 pm , Anonymous pregethwr said...

Universal childcare provision?

 

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