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LABOUR scorned the government yesterday over its plans to hand out £2,000-a-year to wealthy families for each child they send to a private school.
The tax-free childcare scheme would provide a 20 per cent top-up from taxpayers’ cash on money spent on primary school fees with a maximum annual payout of £2,000 for each child.
It is due to be implemented across the country next month.
The scheme explicitly allows parents, who each earn a taxable salary of under £100,000, to claim government support for children aged between five and 11 sent to fee-paying “independent” schools that are registered for the scheme.
Under the scheme, parents get up to £500 every three months for each child, which equates to £2 from the government for every £8 parents spend on private school fees.
But the Tory government is bringing in this new tax benefit after it had already promised to phase out support for private school fees, which are already tax-free due to their charitable status, under the old system of childcare support, Labour says.
Shadow chief secretary to the treasury Peter Dowd said: “It is shocking that the government seek to give thousands of pounds to the richest families so they can send their children to private school while state education funding is slashed.
“The government must immediately exclude private school fees from subsidy under their new programme and invest in our education system to ensure that it works for the many not just a privileged few.
“The next Labour government will simplify Britain’s broken childcare system and invest to offer 30 hours of free childcare to all two-to-four-year-olds.”
National Education Union (NEU) joint general secretary Kevin Courtney told the Star that it “beggars belief” the government is handing out thousands of pounds to families that are already wealthy enough to afford the fees, while state schools are struggling through a funding crisis.
He said: “At a time when state schools are under extraordinary pressure from government cuts, it is incredible that money has been found to subsidise private school education.
“I am sure every parent would wish to give their child’s school an extra £2,000 to invest in their education.”
The Star contacted the Treasury and the Department for Education for comment but received no response.
According to HM Revenue and Customs, the range of benefits that employees receive through salary sacrifice schemes has been “significantly limited” from last April.
Those currently benefiting from existing school fees salary sacrifice schemes, which see salaries reduced and topped up with non-cash benefits so parents’ PAYE tax and NI contributions are lower, can continue to do so until 2021, but no new contractual arrangements can be made.
A HM Treasury spokesperson said: “Tax-Free Childcare will cut thousands of pounds from childcare bills and is good news for working parents.
“It supports eligible parents with their childcare costs up to the age of 12. For schoolchildren, that is for breakfast, holiday or after-school clubs outside of standard school hours.”
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