Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer described the Government as “out of touch with the stresses and strains that so many people are feeling” during a visit to a Stanmore nursery yesterday (Monday 4 April) ahead of local elections next month.
Starmer made the remark after meeting with staff and parents at BrightKidz Preschool in Centenary Park to highlight the impact of spiralling childcare costs and the wider cost-of-living crisis on Harrow families. Analysis has shown that the annual cost of a full-time nursery place for a child under two in outer London has rocketed by £1291 over the last five years.
He said “many parents were staggered” that the Government didn’t address childcare in the recent Spring Statement, adding that it was yet another blow to parents already struggling with the cost-of-living crisis and the upcoming hike in National Insurance.
“You’ve got energy bills going up last Friday by hundreds of pounds ‒ people are really worried about that,” Starmer said. “You’ve got National Insurance tax kicking in this week, which again will cost hundreds of pounds for many people, so you’ve got a double whammy. In the middle of that, you’ve got these other costs ‒ childcare is an example of that.”
The Leader of the Opposition outlined what Labour would do to alleviate pressure on families, including plans to raise a “windfall tax on excess profits” of oil and gas companies to reduce energy bills. And on childcare, he set out Labour’s “Children’s Recovery Plan”, which includes plans to expand provision of breakfast and after-school clubs.
“The sort of provision that would not only help families financially, but also allow them to go out to work [and] feed into the economy,” Starmer continued.
Starmer’s visit came ahead of local elections in the marginal borough of Harrow on the fifth of May. Harrow Council is currently held by Labour after the Party won 35 councillors to the Conservatives’ 28 in 2018, but Starmer pointed to local boundary changes as a challenge for his Party.
Asked what his message was to Harrow voters ahead of the elections, Starmer said: “Here in Harrow, look at the difference Labour makes in power. If you value that, vote for that.
“The boundary changes make it more difficult here, so we need to earn every vote. But Labour in power makes a real difference to people, and that’s what this vote is about going into the May elections.
“These are elections that are about a critical question which is: ‘Whose side are you on?’ And the Labour Party is on the side of millions and millions of working people across the country.”
The MP for Holborn and St Pancras was also questioned on the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Transport for London [TfL], in response to which he called on the Government to “step up and put in place a long-term and sustainable agreement in relation to funding. They haven’t done it, no doubt for political reasons.
“But by not doing it, they’re letting London down, they’re letting Londoners down because this will impact on the ability of people to get around across London and of course it will therefore impact on the economy in London. So the Government’s got to step up here and do the right thing ‒ long-term sustainable agreement as to funding for TfL.”
Starmer, who became Labour leader two years to the day on Monday, met with Harrow Council candidates after the visit, including former Mayor of Harrow Cllr Ajay Maru, Marlborough Cllr Antonio Weiss, and Centenary candidates Yusuf Yusuf and Brahma Mohanty.
Weiss said it was “fantastic” having Starmer come to visit Centenary Park, “one of Harrow’s many fantastic open spaces.” He added: “Keir was keen to talk to local families about the rapidly rising cost of living ‒ a challenge faced by so many of Harrow’s residents and exacerbated by this Conservative Government’s missteps.
“Keir’s visit highlighted the importance of Harrow in this year’s local elections on 5 May. This is an opportunity for residents to show their dissatisfaction with Boris Johnson’s low-growth, high-tax Government and secure a Labour administration in Harrow Council.”
Harrow residents have until the 14th of April to register to vote in the Harrow London Borough Council election. More details about the election, including where your polling station is, can be found here.
Finley Harnett is a Contributing Writer for Harrow Online and a Labour Party candidate in Pinner South.