Brown faces revolt over plan to axe childcare vouchers

Former ministers warn that move could cost Labour votes in marginal seats

Nine former ministers have attacked Gordon Brown's plan to scrap tax relief for childcare vouchers, warning the prime minister that the move could cost Labour votes in key marginal seats.

In a letter to Downing Street, the former ministers including Patricia Hewitt, Estelle Morris, Hilary Armstrong and Beverley Hughes, described the plans as "greatly unfair" and warned Brown could undo one of Labour's "landmark achievements".

Around 340,000 parents currently take part in the scheme, which allows them save on the cost of childcare by opting to receive £243 of their monthly pay in vouchers before income tax and National Insurance is deducted.

The scheme allows higher-rate taxpayers to save £1,195 and basic-rate taxpayers £962 a year. Both parents can use the vouchers, allowing couples to save up to £2,390 a year.

Brown announced that tax relief would be phased out because the vouchers had disproportionately benefited the middle classes.

He has promised to use the money saved to provide 40 per cent of two-year-olds with 10 hours of free childcare by 2015.

But the letter to the prime minister, signed by 43 MPs, argued: "Withdrawing [the vouchers] will penalise a significant number of lower rate taxpayers, reduce the overall amount of funding available for childcare, reduce parental choice and impact negatively on the economy as the UK moves towards recovery."

It added: "Surely this is not the time for us to remove a key support from hard-working families at the very point we need them at their most engaged and productive to fuel the recovery from recession. Crucially, in the run-up to an election, it will remove support for working parents and for businesses in key marginal constituencies."

More than 75,000 people have signed a petition on the Downing Street website calling on Brown to reconsider the move.