Mark Woods: Political brainstorm strikes a chord

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Policy generation in modern politics seems to have turned to the dreaded ‘brainstorm’ as its primary source of inspiration.

Many finely honed pieces of innovative political thinking reek of a bean bag seated session where the sky is always blue, the envelope always pushed and the walls always covered in post its.

Maybe it’s always been the case, maybe Aneurin Bevan came up with the NHS while dangling from a rope on an open your mind assault course away day.

But somehow you doubt it.

Every now and then though our politicians stumble across an issue so obviously in need of attention that the almost unanimous chorus of approval must take them back somewhat.

Yesterday was one such day and childcare was the issue.

There’s no need for a flotilla of focus groups, or whatever the appropriate collective noun is, on this one, anyone who has a child, knows a parent or has ever been caught in the backdraft of the frenzy of drop off and pick up will know that all is not well when it comes to the shape of the parental day.

Since 2010 nursery prices have risen five times faster than pay, with the average bill for a part-time nursery place now standing at £107 per week. That means that for parents working part-time, on average wages, Monday to Thursday’s earnings pay for childcare and Friday for everything else. To compound the situation, Ofsted figures show that there are 35,000 fewer places up for grabs since 2009, which means more people needing to work having to fight over fewer childcare options.It’s a situation that simply cannot continue and when Ed Miliband promised a “legal guarantee” of childcare between 8am and 6pm – from breakfast to after-school clubs – at all primary schools, he hit a home run that parents of all political points of points of view must surly have welcomed with open arms.

The effect such a scheme would have on making a return to work financially viable for tens of thousands of parents who are currently priced out by childcare costs, would see a huge wave of dormant productivity and talent return to the still sluggish economy.

Twitter @mark_r_woods