The proposed cancellation to extend free nursery education in an attempt to save £380m caused a heated battle amongst government officials, with Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, and Education Secretary, Michael Gove, at the forefront. The plan to provide free nursery education to low income families for 15 hours a week was proposed to be withheld by Gove, whereas Clegg opposed the decision. The issue was taken to senior ministers last week, where it was agreed that Gove would find efficiency savings in commissioning new academies and free schools.
The government had pledged to extend free nursery education to 150,000 2-year-olds from September 2013, rising to around 260,000 the following year, but this was under threat by Gove. As a result, Clegg has made extending free nursery care to young children one of his key personal issues.
In another issue that caused tension across the government during the spending review, an extra £200m was announced to fund an extension of the Troubled Families Programme to a wider group of 400,000 families from 2015-16. The current programme is aimed at 120,000 families deemed to be at very serious risk of offending or failing to secure an education for their children. Each family is deemed to cost £75,000 a year, and the announcement of additional funding is a victory for the civil servant in charge of the programme, Louise Casey.
The spending review is due to announce cuts of £11.5bn for 2015-16, with the majority of these cuts being found through increased efficiency. There is growing concern in aid circles that the budget for the Ministry of Defence has been raided, with money transferred from the departments of health, education, and justice to fund the Troubled Families Programme.
During an interview with ITN, Laws clarified that his intention was not to cause embarrassment to Liam Byrne. Instead, he admitted that the letter was intended to be humorous. However, he argued that the letter symbolized a government that was reckless with spending. He stated that he anticipated the letter to be utilized in upcoming election campaigns.