Andrea Leadsom was reminded “appalling” Government cuts have closed more than 1,000 Sure Start centres after lavishing praise on them in parliament.
The leader of the Commons was speaking at an event on women’s rights when she said the late Dame Tessa Jowell, the politician credited with creating Sure Start, had been an inspiration to her.
Leadsom went on to say Sure Start centres had been Jowell’s “proudest achievement” and they had “helped to support millions of families in the UK”.
Figures released by Labour and the Sutton Trust show that cutbacks to local government budgets have closed around 1,240 Sure Start centres - a third of the total - across the country since the coalition came to power in 2010.
Shadow early years minister Tracy Brabin said Leadsom should ask Theresa May to reverse cutbacks which are “denying countless families the support they need”.
Leadsom told MPs: “Now, it is a struggle to name just one woman who inspires me, but I think it is fitting in our centenary year to highlight a very dear colleague and a trailblazing parliamentarian, who we very sadly lost this year.
“So, colleagues around the world may have known about Baroness Tess Jowell.
“As our incredible minister for the Olympics, she led London’s hugely successful 2012 host city campaign.
“But for me and for many others, she was also a woman politician who was determined to give every baby and every family the best start in life through her Sure Start initiative here in the UK.”
A study by the Sutton Trust earlier this year warned that Sure Start centres were at a “tipping point”, as further local government austerity was anticipated.
The charity said that centres were struggling to “survive in an environment of declining resources and loss of strategic direction”.
Brabin said: “Sure Start centres were one of Dame Tessa’s great achievements. They’ve helped hundreds of thousands of families, and Labour is enormously proud of them.
“If Andrea Leadsom is such a fan, she should convince her Cabinet colleagues to reverse the appalling cuts that have led to the loss of over 1,240 Sure Start centres, denying countless families the support they need when their kids are young.”