Letter from Bassetlaw – 17th January 2016

Well we finally got a taste of winter this week and have even seen a light covering of snow, although as I write this, it is already melting.

While the cold weather may stay for a few more days the forecast isn’t showing any more snow for a while yet (regardless of what the Express and other doom mongers might say) so we won’t have any extra days off due to heavy snow.

 

Behind the big headlines, there have been a couple of changes to the Student Loans system that have been pushed through with hardly a murmur.  One will affect all students who have taken out loans since 2012, under the changes made by the Coalition Government and the other will affect new students from poorer backgrounds.

When the Coalition Government introduces the new Tuition Fees regime in 2012, one of the key points was that the £21,000 earning threshold for starting to repay the loans was going to rise with average earnings so would keep it real value.  George Osborne changed this in the last Autumn Statement so that not only will this threshold not rise in future for any new Student Loans, he retroactively changed the conditions of existing loans so that the threshold for those loans will not rise either (see Martin Lewis’s blog on this here).

This may seem a small technical point and, in a period of low earning inflation, won’t make much difference to graduates as they start to repay their student loans.  However, if over 10 years, incomes go up by 10% (which is not very much), graduates will be paying nearly £150 a year extra.

What is even more disturbing, is that the Tory Government feels that it is OK for them to change the conditions of existing agreements, the agreements students made when they first took out the loans.  If a bank or loan company tried to do this, it would be rightly condemned as being illegal but the Tories seem to think it is OK for them to do this.  It sets a terrible precedent that Government can change the conditions of an agreement unilaterally if it feels like it!

The other change is just as petty and nasty, the withdrawal of grants for the students from deprived backgrounds will hit those from many parts of Bassetlaw who want to go to Uni but now will either have to take out even bigger loans or give up on a chance to improve themselves.  What is worse is, as the article says, this was done without even a vote in the Commons or even a mummer from Labour about it.  It fell to the Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron, who criticised the these moves.

“This is a very frightening prospect for young people and their parents … Plans to cut maintenance grants are wrong and we will fight these plans tooth and nail. Social mobility is a real priority and these changes threaten to further entrench inequality. It is something I oppose.”

 

These changes, along with the attacks on social housing & it’s handling of the Junior Doctors dispute this week, show yet again how much this current Government cares about making UK a fairer county.  While Labour seems intent on tearing itself to pieces than opposing the actions of this Government, we need the Lib Dems to lead the opposition and take the fight to the Government.

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