By Jonathan Isaby
Earlier this week Paul Waugh revealed on PoliticsHome that Ed Miliband had instructed all his shadow ministers to clear all policy announcements, statements and press releases with his and Ed Balls' offices in order that Labour's spending commitments were "clear, costed and affordable".
The letter to his colleagues stated:
"Whilst we will continue rightly to oppose many of the decisions of the current Conservative-led Government, given the reckless gamble they are taking with the future of our economy, we cannot and should not at this stage make firm commitments to reverse each of those decisions unless and until we can say how those commitments will be paid for."
This has prompted Education Secretary Michael Gove and his team to consider the commitments that have been made thus far by his opposite number, Andy Burnham, and Gove is now asking him for clarification of his position on a number of matters including BSF, schools funding, Sure Start, EMA, sport and music funding.
Gove has written to Burnham, saying:
Can you commit to reinstating all BSF projects? You told Adam Boulton on 24 October last year: “we would have been able to continue with the Building Schools for the Future programme”.
Can you commit to continuing to pay the Education Maintenance Allowance to 46% of young people in education post-16 at current rates? You also told Adam Boulton: “I would protect the things that would help people from less well off backgrounds get on in life such as the Educational Maintenance Allowance”.
Can you commit to 0.7% increases in school funding for each of the next four years? In the same interview with Adam Boulton you said: “I supported the halving of the deficit over four years and that would mean a tough settlement for education so as I said 0.7% over the period and that would protect the front line in schools. It would be tough but that would be the right thing to do.”
Can you commit to increases in funding for Sure Start? Last Thursday, in a Labour Party press release, you said of the decision to freeze Sure Start funding: “Early Intervention services like Sure Start Children’s Centres work with families to improve health, education and life chances. These services will be lost for years and this country will pay the price in terms of unfulfilled potential, poorer economic growth and halting social mobility for generations.”
Can you commit to funding school sports at the current level of £162 million for the next four years? On 27 October last year, you told the Daily Telegraph: “It makes me want to weep. It took blood, sweat and tears to build up the infrastructure that would support high-quality school sport in every part of the country.”
Can you commit to increases in funding for local authority music services for the next four years? During Education Questions on the 7th February, your colleague Toby Perkins, Shadow Education Minister, said of the decision to freeze funding for music services: “Once again, there is a chasm between rhetoric and reality: the big announcement is a cash freeze, which in real terms is a cut.”
If you are able to make any of these commitments, can you also give your estimate of their cost and details of what other services you would cut, or which taxes you would increase, to cover these costs?
If you feel you cannot make these commitments then I’m sure you will want to withdraw your opposition to the difficult decisions I have had to make in the knowledge that to do otherwise would give false hope to those affected by these decisions.
As you must realise, the public understands your opposition to cuts as a commitment to reverse them. If this is not the case they deserve to know the truth.