Cameron: Sure Start budget “going up”; the reality? Sure Start is under threat

The prime minister insisted the Sure Start budget was "going up" from £2.2m to £2.3m at PMQs today - yet it is the Early Intervention Grant that is increasing.

Ed Miliband accused David Cameron of cutting funding to Sure Start by 9 per cent at Prime Minister’s Questions today, citing research from the Daycare Trust which warned 250 Sure Start centres face the axe; however, the prime minister insisted the Sure Start budget was “going up” from £2,212 million to £2,297m, saying:

“We have maintained the money for sure start. We have maintained the money for children’s centres… The budget is going up.”

And yet it is not the Sure Start budget that is being protected – it is the Early Intervention Grant (EIG) which is increasing from £2.2 billion in 2011-12 to £2.3 bn in 2012-3.

The EIG is provided to councils to pay for Sure Start, but it is the pot of money from which councils also pay for the careers advice service Connexions; disabled children’s short breaks; the youth opportunity fund that supports community projects; and several other programmes.

The total expenditure that would have been allocacted to these programmes in 2010-11 had the EIG not been created was £2.5 bn. As the Department for Education explains:

“In 2011-12, the overall amount to be allocated through the EIG is 10.9% lower than the aggregated funding that makes up the notional baseline in 2010-11. In 2012-13 it is 7.5 per cent below 2010-11.”

Sure Start may indeed see spending rises – if councils decide to cut so deep elsehwere in EIG programmes as to be able to make up the reduction required overall. But if Sure Start faces an equal fate to those programmes it is now competing against, it will face 11% cuts in 2011-12. Either way, the prime minister’s robust statement in the house, that Sure Start spending is rising, is a misleading description of reality at best.

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