Teflon Teather dodges the key question about Sure Start

Alex Hern reports on Education Questions in the Commons today, in which children’s minister Sarah Teather was economical with the actualité about Sure Start.

Sarah Teather was confronted at Education Questions in Parliament today about the government’s continued commitment to Sure Start centres.

When asked about their funding, the children’s minister told the House:

“There was no reduction in revenue funding for Sure Start children’s centres in 2010/11. From April 2011 funding for childrens’ centres is included within the early intervention grant.

“It is for local authorities to decide how to use this funding taking account of their statutory duties and local needs.”

You can read a full transcript of the exchange here.

On the one hand, Teather has stepped back from David Cameron’s claims in February the Sure Start budget had been increased:

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

In fact, the budget was 10.9% lower than the amount that it had been in 2010-11 – the only increase is that by 2012-13, it is only expected to be 7.5% lower than it was before the Conservatives slashed it.

Teather didn’t quite make the same false claims, but her argument there was no reduction isn’t true either.

As Adrian Bailey (Labour, Sandwell) pointed out in his reply to her claim:

“The funding for Sure Start nationally as a result of the changes in the funding streams that have taken place amount to a slashing of expenditure of something like 22% nationally… And of course the removal of the ringfencing condition gives the opportunity for LAs to plug their gaps in other services with Sure Start funding.”

Michael Ellis (Conservative, Northampton North) then managed to wholly drop Teather in it, asking:

“Could the minister confirm that despite the apocalyptic warnings from the party opposite there are broadly the same number of sure start centres as there were when the coalition came in to power?”

Teather, of course, could not confirm such a thing – because it isn’t true. As Left Foot Forward has shown, 31 sure start centres had closed by July, and with 83 per cent of councils cutting funding, that number is sure to rise.

Before the election, the prime minister said:

“Yes, we back Sure Start. It’s a disgrace that Gordon Brown has been trying to frighten people about this… Not only do we back Sure Start, but we will improve it.”

The real disgrace is yet another broken Tory promise.

See also:

Another broken Tory promise: 31 Sure Start centres have already closedShamik Das, July 27th 2011

Cameron: Sure Start budget “going up”; the reality? Sure Start is under threatDaniel Elton, February 9th 2011

Cameron betrays 60,000 families as 250 Sure Start centres set to shutWill Straw, January 28th 2011

Pupil premium may come from Sure Start & EMA budgetWill Straw, July 27th 2010

Defending Sure Start against vicious right-wing attacksShamik Das, March 18th 2010

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