Counting the cost of election manifestos


We have been digging into the detail of manifesto pledges and were surprised to find that the party promising the least in terms of early years entitlements, costs the sector the most.

With no changes to existing entitlements and no additional funds announced for ‘free’ places, a funding deficit of £824 million is forecast for 2020/21 under a new Conservative administration, when age cross-subsidies are taken into account.  

The Labour party has proposed significant expansion of early education and childcare entitlements of 30 hours a week, across 38 weeks of the year, for all 2 to 4 year olds. This also comes with promises of significant increases to funding rates. At full rollout on 2020 rates, analysis by Ceeda indicates a funding shortfall of an estimated £80 million. 

If Labour is ambitious, then the Liberal Democrats have gone several steps further. The introduction of free places for children aged 9 to 23 months in working households would significantly change the early years landscape. Add to this the expansion of existing 2 to 4 year old offers to every child, for 35 hours a week across 48 weeks of the year, and the scale of change is vast. Assuming full delivery of the offer at pledged 2020/21 rates, nurseries and pre-schools would face an estimated £314 million deficit.

Should annual funding reviews narrow the gap found between pledged 2020 rates and forecast sector costs, it is possible estimated Labour and Liberal Democrat deficits would narrow, with phased rollout.

Whilst cost understandably takes centre stage there are other, albeit related, challenges to consider. At present PVI nurseries and pre-schools deliver around half a billion ‘free entitlement’ hours. If party estimates of take-up are accurate, the figure could rise to 1.1 billion hours under Labour and 1.8 billion in a Liberal Democrat administration. Given existing recruitment and retention challenges will the sector be in a position to respond to new demand on a large-scale?

Whatever the outcome on 12 December, the sector will face significant challenges. We invite you to come and discuss these pressing issues in the #TheBigEYdebate on January 29, in central London or via live web-stream. 

This is an important opportunity for the sector to take stock of the outcome on 12 December, and consider how it can work together to address the challenges of the future – we hope you can join us. Find out more HERE.

Download our full manifesto briefing, available free, HERE.