December 3, 2008 12:01 AM

Children and parents in Newcastle will benefit from new proposals for free childcare for every family, claims a leading local Liberal Democrat.

Ron Beadle, Parliamentary spokesman for Newcastle North, has welcomed the proposals, launched by Party Leader Nick Clegg, which offer parents:

:: 19 months of paid parental leave, replacing current maternity and paternity leave arrangements. To get the maximum entitlement, parents will have to share the leave as no parent will be able to take more than 12 months

:: Free and flexible childcare for children aged between 18 months and 5 years for 20 hours per week

:: A commitment to improve the quality of childcare provision by expanding the role of children's centres as training institutions for local providers

"I am very pleased Nick Clegg has launched these proposals," said Ron Beadle.

"Paying for childcare is a real struggle for many parents, particularly when times are tough.

"As we enter the recession, more parents are going to find themselves having to look for work or wanting a part-time job to bring in some extra money.

"With family budgets getting tighter, more parents are looking at going back to work or training to bring in some extra money. The need for flexible and affordable childcare has therefore never been more urgent.

"As a father of two young children, I know what a struggle it can be for fathers to take time off work to spend with their newborn child.

"The need for flexible and affordable childcare has therefore never been more urgent."

The proposals will be debated at the party's conference in March.