Daily Cuts Briefing – June 10th 2010

10 06 2010

Two unsurprising but depressing headlines this morning – tuition fees looks set to go up, and Royal Mail is heading for the auction block.

The new minister in charge of higher education, David Willetts, made his views about university students pretty clear in an interview with today’s Guardian – their degrees are a “burden on the taxpayer”. And there we were thinking education was a benefit to the country. Silly us.

In the interview, Willetts didn’t commit to raising the cap on tuition fees; he doesn’t want to prejudge the outcome of Lord Browne’s review of higher education funding, which is a rubber stamp for raising fees in all but name.

He did, however, say that students should see higher fees not as a debt, but “more as an obligation to pay higher income tax”.

This is arrant nonsense.

You pay higher income tax when you earn a lot of money – £40,000, £50,000, £100,000. Don’t tell me that higher fees will only become fully repayable when graduates have hit those kind of earnings, or that interest on tuition fee loans and student debt will only kick in at those pay levels. Already, graduate debt – let’s call it what it is – is a source of worry for many students. Increasing this debt could be crippling.

Speaking of income tax, the CBI never fails to disappoint. With weary predictability, its director-general Richard Lambert has called for the top rate of income tax to be brought back down from 50% to 40%. Funded by massive public spending cuts. Hit the poor to fund the rich – nice one, Richard.

As for Royal Mail? Well, according to postal affairs minister Ed Davey, it will be split off from the Post Office and privatised in a £9bn flotation. That would be the same Royal Mail whose profits jumped by 26% last year. And will private companies really be queuing round the block to take on the Royal Mail’s massive pension deficit and deliver post to rural locations? Or are we going to be topping up the already giant taxpayer subsidy for the private sector?

Elsewhere, the independent Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has warned that the government’s public sector cuts could raise unemployment close to 3 million – a nice big increase in the country’s unemployment benefit bill there – and hit the poor hardest.

And last but not least, the PCS trade union warns of thousands of job losses in the UK Border Agency. Because the so-called ‘problem’ of immigration can be tackled with a massively reduced border agency, right? Right?

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One response

21 06 2010
Ben

The willetts defence of tuition fee debt seems,in a rather bizarre fashion,to make debt a rite of passage for this countries young people.It yells “dont be silly everybody whose anybody is in debt,debt is a privilege,roll up roll up and come and get some debt”.

Because of this,Debt anxiety is now in a dance of death with status anxiety.Those that want to enhance their status and employability at university are forced to gulp and take the hit.This is not a choice for the bright poor this is a pernicious compulsion.The truth is that poor families often fear debt the most and the sons and daughters of these families consequently are likely-and in droves- to opt out,work at 18 and miss out or they will feel compelled to go.That is a ridiculous state of affairs.

The travesty of tuition fees is that this sort of practical and rational decision making- to avoid debt- is going to turn university campuses into ghettos of tory rugby playing bores who are less likely to go to university and wake up and realise that university is a ground zero to sort out short term advantages from long term potential.University, were it free and not the victim of the coalitions agenda could be the melting pot it was traditionally.By freezing out the poor you lose the opportunity to have that melting pot .

The unintended consequence,then, of building a money wall around university education is that the poor lose out and the rich get worse.Privilege is entrenched and the campus becomes a heaving indivisable lump of polo shirts.Arts and Humanities too take a psychological pummelling in this sort of environment.Why risk a literature degree?If you going to pay £30,000 for an education take a private money route and dont waste your time!This is the tyranny of relevance that caplessness will usher in.

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