Labour say that the model could save parents on average £150 a year on chidcare.
Childcare centres are run successfully along these lines in Sweden and in some parts of the UK already and Stephen Twigg, shadow education secretary and chair of Labour’s Childcare Commission, is keen to see co-operative childcare expand.
Mr Twigg said that increasing the number of co-operative nurseries would cut the cost of childcare for parents, provide more flexibility for working parents and increase provision in communities where there is a shortage of nurseries.
Labour gives as successful examples, The Co-operative Childcare group of 47 nurseries and the outstanding Sunflowers Neighbourhood Nursery in Braunstone, Leicestershire, which received funding from the Co-operative Enterprise hub.
Parents can save money by using co-operative nurseries, because as members of the co-op they receive a share of the nursery’s profits, equating to a reduction in fees.
Labour says that based on last year’s figures for Co-operative Childcare’s nursery in Waterloo, this would mean a 3 per cent discount, worth more than £150 a year.
ACE Nursery School, a co-operative in Cambridge also asks parents to volunteer five hours a month, which helps to keep staff costs and fees down, as well as helping parents build stronger links with their nursery.
Co-operative nurseries can also be more flexible and open for longer hours, in line with parental demand.
Mr Twigg said, ‘Labour would help families with the cost of childcare. This is critical to ensure that work pays and that parents – particularly women – are able to go back to work if they want. That isn’t just morally right, it’s good for the economy too.
‘We know what the Conservative agenda is for childcare – more deregulation, which could increase costs, reduce the quality of childcare and bring in more toddler top-up fees that hit already squeezed families.
‘Labour’s approach will be completely different – putting parents in the driving seat. We want to explore co-operative models, whereby local parents have a far bigger say in running their local nursery and get a share of the profits.’