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Norfolk childcare minister's plan overruled by the deputy prime minister

Liz Truss MP

Liz Truss MP

Archant

Proposals to relax the rules on how many children nursery staff can look after have been blocked by the deputy prime minister.

The Liberal Democrat leader said the plans put forward by Norfolk education minister Elizabeth Truss, will be shelved.

He said the increased ratios had been “roundly criticised by parents, providers and experts alike” and there was “no real evidence that increasing ratios will reduce the cost of childcare for families”.

Coalition tension emerged earlier this year when Mr Clegg revealed he was opposed to the plans. But Ms Truss, who was summoned to the House of Commons to defend the plans, has continued to argue that the changes would lower childcare costs and allow professionals in the sector to be paid higher salaries.

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said: “When you are talking about something this important to parents, I think it is imperative to be led by the evidence – which is overwhelmingly against changing the rules on ratios.

“The proposals to increase ratios were put out to consultation and were roundly criticised by parents, providers and experts alike.

“Most importantly, there is no real evidence that increasing ratios will reduce the cost of childcare for families. The argument that this will help families with their weekly childcare bill simply does not stack up.

“I cannot ask parents to accept such a controversial change with no real guarantee it will save them money – in fact it could cost them more.”

He added: “I have concluded that, because it will not reduce costs for parents or increase the quality of childcare, the proposed ratio changes for pre-school children cannot proceed.”

But he said the ratios for pre-school children was just one part of a wider package of reforms being looked at in government and that he would “work closely with ministerial colleagues” in the coalition to come forward with other proposals.

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