Nursery owner says she might vote Labour after speaking to Sunak

A nursery owner said she was inclined to vote Labour after questioning Rishi Sunak about support for the childcare sector.

Jennifer Hughes, owner of the Bluebell Hill Nursery in Cannock, Staffordshire, challenged the Prime Minister on a campaign visit to the area, asking how he would help early years education providers that could not cover their costs with the funding available.

She explained that she ran at a deficit of £2 per child, with 75% of her funding coming from the local authority and a rising minimum wage adding to her costs.

Mr Sunak said it was “interesting” that Government rates were not enough to cover her costs, adding: “The department did a survey and what they found is that the rates that the Government is now paying, because we’ve increased them, are actually higher than they were in the private sector.”

The Prime Minister went on to say the Government had put £5 billion into the sector to provide more free childcare and had increased the rates for providers.

Ms Hughes and Mr Sunak had their exchange during a question and answer session at South Staffordshire College, the Prime Minister’s final stop on his two-day campaigning tour of all four nations of the UK.

Speaking to the PA news agency afterwards, Ms Hughes said she did not feel satisfied with Mr Sunak’s answer.

She said: “We are very much the forgotten sector. I’ve had this nursery for two years and it’s a constant battle, funding doesn’t cover costs.”

She added: “There’s no pay incentive, we work horrendous hours and it’s just desperately trying to get any government to acknowledge us.”

Asked whether she saw any offer for childcare from Labour, she said she had not looked into it fully but added: “I would be inclined to vote Labour after that answer.”