Huddersfield's national nursery supremo has voiced concerns over Labour’s pledge on childcare.

Purnima Tanuku OBE, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries’ Association, believes that Ed Balls’ promise to increase free childcare for three and four-year-olds from working families by 10 hours a week could make the childcare sector unsustainable.

Mrs Tanuku, based at Bradley, fears that the free 25-hours-a-week pledge could result in perpetual low pay in the childcare sector.

She said: “While parents will welcome the extra help with childcare, it is vitally important the funding for these extended hours is thought through properly and we look forward to hearing more details.

“Childcare providers are already working with a system which is not fit for purpose and leaves the majority making a loss of £700 per child per year on funded places for three and four-year-olds.

“It is these inherent problems which are pushing down pay for childcare workers and making the sector unsustainable for childcare providers.

“The only way forward is for enough funding to go to the front line, paid directly to childcare providers.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has promised to increase free childcare for three and four-year-olds from working families by 10 hours a week
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has promised to increase free childcare for three and four-year-olds from working families by 10 hours a week
 

“Extending the hours for three and four-year-olds also raises the question of the funding for under-threes which is currently being rolled out. How will this be viable when childcare is more expensive and there is less support available?

“If any party is serious about providing good quality care, the first thing it must do is look at the amount of funding invested in childcare and how much needs to reach the provider to cover the cost of the place.

“It is only through proper support we will be able to pay the wages dedicated childcare workers deserve and develop the professional, highly-qualified workforce our children deserve.”

Mr Balls defended the free childcare proposal, saying Labour would hand over its draft plans for scrutiny.

A confident Mr Balls said that not only did he want to see the policy come to fruition, but that “it will happen”.

He criticised the Conservative Party for playing party politics, after they dismissed the plans as a “stunt”.