Local authorities will not be allowed to compete with the private sector to provide nursery places for four-year-olds, writes Susan Young.
The Government is determined to retain the diversity of state and private nursery provision which emerged from the Conservatives' short-lived voucher scheme.
Labour is promising universal nursery provision for four-year-olds by the spring of 1999, and last week put out draft guidance on how it expected this to be provided by three-way partnerships between councils, private organisations including childminders and the voluntary sector. Local authorities now have until September to respond, and until January to provide blueprints for how they intend to organise their service.
Margaret Hodge, Labour's backbench specialist on the under-fives, told a conference in Brighton: "We don't want local authorites to compete with the private sector or the voluntary sector. We want them to co-operate to the best advantage of our young children."
She said the Government intended to harmonise education and social services legislation covering activities for children.
Copies of Parents' Views of Pre-Schools: Making Choices and Parents' Views of Pre-School: Quality Matters are available at Pounds 5 each from the National Foundation for Educational Research, The Mere, Upton Park, Slough, Berkshire SL1 2DQ.