CHILDCARE is in danger across the region because of cuts to training, Labour said yesterday, ahead of a key Government announcement.

Darlington and Stockton Times: childcare under threat

Cash-starved councils have cut spending on training for nursery staff, and one has cut its entire budget, putting quality at risk, the party said.

Every authority in the North that responded to Labour’s survey reported large budget cuts.

Durham County Council, the region’s largest authority, spent £305,000 on training in 2011-12, down 45.3 per cent on £558,000 the previous year.

There were even bigger reductions in Middlesbrough, South Tyneside, Newcastle, North Yorkshire and York.

Redcar and Cleveland was among four English councils that removed their entire budgets in 2011-12, having spent £629,832 on training the previous year.

Councils may have cut budgets further since, because no predictions were available yet for 2012-13.

Stephen Twigg, Labour’s education spokesman, said: “In some parts of the country, there is now no money available to train nursery staff.

“Local authorities have had to endure the deepest cuts of any area of government. We also know these cuts have been worst in the areas of most need.”

The figures were revealed as David Cameron prepares to make an announcement next week aimed at easing the burden of childcare bills. He is also expected to ease regulations to allow childminders to look after up to eight children at a time, instead of four.

Mr Twigg said the plan, in combination with training cuts, would alarm parents, and said: “They will worry that child safety could be at risk, as well as the quality of early learning.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Councils are only one training provider. Colleges, universities, private companies, local groups and networks also provide training for nursery staff.

“Our childcare reforms will look at how money can go straight to the front line for nurseries to decide how best to improve their workforce.”

Childcare costs account for 27 per cent of British parents’ income.

Tories are pushing for next week’s announcement to introduce better tax breaks for parents. However, Lib Dems fear that would simply reward middle-class families and are pushing for more free childcare for poorer under-fives.

Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council leader George Dunning said the council still monitored and agreed training, and added: “The childcare provider then pays for this training, some of which is provided by the council and some by other agencies.”