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Labour accused of £1.8bn education spending black hole

A row has erupted over the costs of Labour’s education pledges after chancellor George Osborne used Treasury figures to claim the party’s policies would cost £1.8 billion in extra cash.

The numbers were published by the Treasury as part of an 86-page dossier detailing the estimated costs of each of Labour’s policies, which Mr Osborne claimed would together create a £21 billion black hole in the public finances.

Mr Osborne, flanked by four Cabinet colleagues including education secretary Nicky Morgan, claimed that Labour would bring economic “chaos” if they were voted in to power in May.

According to the Treasury’s calculations, Labour’s pledge to ensure that all teachers have or are working towards qualified teacher status would cost an additional £386 million over the next five years. The creation of 150 new directors of school standards to replace the new regional school commissioners would cost between £65.5 million and £68 million, officials say.

And the party’s promise to dramatically expand the number of university technical colleges by 100 over the course of the next Parliament, as set out by shadow chancellor Ed Balls back in June, would cost the taxpayer an extra £1.4 billion, the Treasury estimates.

Mr Osborne claimed the Treasury’s dossier was an “objective, thorough and detailed cost analysis”.

But the publication has already come under fire from shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt, who branded the document a “dodgy dossier”.

“Labour has made no unfunded spending commitments,” Mr Hunt said. “We are undertaking a zero-based review of departmental spending. This dodgy dossier is riddled with bogus claims and untruths.”

The spat between the two parties marks the start of the election battle that will run until May, and it comes just a day after headteachers' leaders called on the main political parties to commit to protecting school budgets over the next five years.

Writing on TES Opinion, Russell Hobby, general secretary of headteachers’ union the NAHT, said that all parties should make a “clear and honest commitment” to protect school funding, covering both “revenue and capital, including both the early years and sixth form".

Related stories: 

Tristram Hunt: 'I would be sceptical if an Ed Miliband government didn’t invest in schools' - 11 December 2014

Labour would make learning about Magna Carta compulsory - 29 December 2014

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