Monday 30 March 2015

Yup, this is how democracy works.

From the Evening Standard:

Take this month: we’ve had a Budget whose headline £1,000 tax-free interest allowance for savers only accrues to people with £30,000 or so in the bank. We’ve heard strong suggestions that a Tory government would cut inheritance tax. We’ve seen a pledge card from Labour that didn’t even mention the enormous house-building programme that the party admits is needed.

The Budget did raise the pay of apprentices, and it pledged to top up the deposits of first-time-buyers impossibly lucky enough have the other £61,000 needed to reach the average London first-time deposit. But (older) people with money in the bank comprehensively won the day.

Why? Because they vote. Older people and richer people are much more likely than younger and poorer people to vote, and the gap has widened dramatically. In 1970, turnout among the over-65s was already 18 points higher than among voters aged 18-24 — and that gap has more than doubled since then. Similarly, the turnout gap between the poorest voters and richest voters has widened from four points in 1987 to 23 points in 2010.

Registration levels for this election are strikingly low among younger voters, particularly London’s transient young. According to a recent report, almost half of those turning 18 just in time for this election are not registered; that figure is about 30 per cent among all 18- to 24-year-olds.

But a new online registration system means that plenty can change between now and the April 20 deadline. I felt oddly elated when I registered on the site recently — it takes two minutes and just requires your NI number.

That online registration thing is here, by the way.

THE Young People's Party has put forward a candidate for the Folkestone and Hythe seat at this year's general election.
Rohen Kapur, who stood to be MP for Hornsey and Wood Green as an independent in 2010, will be competing against Damian Collins, Claire Jeffrey, Harriet Yeo, Lynne Beaumont and Seth Cruse (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition Party).
Dr Kapur will also be standing for the district and town council under the Libertarian Party and hinted on Twitter that he aims to take votes away from Ukip.
He said: "Why two parties? It's because they are similar in outlook and have small government and lower taxes as their main thread, along with personal liberty."

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Thursday 26 March 2015

YPP meet-up, tomorrow Friday 27 March

Tomorrow Friday 27 March, at The Brewmaster nr Leicester Square Tube (Exit 1 and turn left at the top of the stairs into "St Martin's Court") from about 5.20 onwards.

We put a yellow leaflet on the table so that you can recognise us.

Topics: Rohen and I are going to stand at the next General Election. If anybody else is up for it, you've got a few days left to get organised.

Thursday 12 March 2015

YPP meet-up, Friday 13 March

Tomorrow Friday 13 March, for the non-superstitious, at The Brewmaster nr Leicester Square Tube (Exit 1 and turn left at the top of the stairs into "St Martin's Court") from about 5.20 onwards.

We put a yellow leaflet on the table so that you can recognise us.

Topics: Rohen and I are going to stand at the next General Election. If anybody else is up for it, please let us know.

Sunday 8 March 2015

Manifesto: Higher Education

Please note that there is no one single coherent set of statistics covering higher education, spending and student numbers, all figures are approximate and for guidance only.

Let's sum up the current position before outlining our policies:

Student numbers

Currently, about 38% of school leavers go on to Higher Education, and there are around 1.7 million UK domiciled undergraduate students at UK universities.

This represents a vast increase compared to twenty or thirty years ago. The general perception and overall picture is that:

- UK governments have pushed more and more people into higher education to keep the official unemployment statistics down;
- too many people are taking 'Mickey Mouse' degrees;
- the 'graduate premium' (the extra salary you can earn by doing a degree) is being eroded; and
- faced with far too many applicants for a job, employers prioritise applicants who have been to university, regardless of what they learned.

So to a large extent going to university is just an arms race and a waste of time, effort and money.

Total funding for higher education

The UK government i.e. UK taxpayers, pay around £6 billion a year directly to 'higher education providers'.

Students are supposed to pay £9,000 a year towards tuition fees by taking out student loans. Only half of these will ever be repaid and the other half will never be collected. So the taxpayer contributes a further £7.7 billion a year indirectly (loans made but never repaid), and graduates end up paying £7.7 bn.

So the total cost of running universities is £21 billion a year (the taxpayer pays £13 bn of that) and the average cost per student is £12,000 per year.

Tuition fees/student loans

Student loans are not really loans in the ordinary sense, they are a graduate tax with a capped total repayment; so they combine the worst aspects of debt (they hang over graduates' heads) and the worst aspect of income tax (they discourage people from working harder and earning more). The whole thing is smoke and mirrors.

The total accumulated student loans are £60 billion (pdf) owed by 4.3 million people; the maximum loan that will be owed by somebody starting a three-year course this year will be around £44,000 (including maintenance loan). Half is never collected and the repayment period is up to 30 years, so the amount that is actually clawed back via the tax system each year is minimal (between £1 and £2 billion).

Maintenance grants

Currently, the maximum non-repayable maintenance grant is £3,387, payable to those with a household (i.e. parents') income of £25,000 or less; those with household incomes above £42,875 receive nothing.

Student accommodation

The usual rules apply; a lot of university-owned student accommodation has been sold off and student numbers have increased.

The result is that around a quarter of students stay at their parents' house; a quarter are in halls of residence costing £80 a week and half are paying rent to private landlords for the lowest quality accommodation.

YPP's policies

Having set out the position as at today's date, the way forward is obvious:

- We as a society need graduates, especially in the fields of applied science (biology, medicine, chemistry, engineering, statistics etc); research for research sake (physics); and for teaching future generations (the three R's, science and some social science and arts subjects to round things off). But we do not need an arms race where people will take meaningless degrees merely in order to improve their chances of getting a job.

- The UK government/taxpayer can afford to spend £13 bn a year on higher education (under 1% of GDP) and as an economy, we can't afford not to. That would cover the full tuition cost for over 1 million UK students.

- Instead of 38% of school leavers going to university and being saddled with student loans of nominal £27,000 for the tuition fees of a three year degree, it would be better for around 25% of school leavers to go to university - for 'free' - to focus on studying what the country as a whole needs.

- A core part of YPP's manifesto is for there to be a Citizen's Income (non means tested, non-taxable, non-contributory) for all working age British citizens, equal to Income Support rates (currently £72.40 per week). Students would be entitled to this the same as anybody else, and this is considerably more generous that the savagely means-tested maintenance grants and loans currently on offer.

- Every student should have the possibility of living in low-cost student accommodation for a capped rent of £50 per week (outside London; perhaps up to £80 a week for London where space is at a premium) if they do not want to or cannot sensibly stay at home. This would involve the construction of several thousand units (bed sits or studio flats) in purpose built blocks, the cost of which will be minimal and which would be recouped out of the future rental income anyway.

All of this leaves just a few loose ends...

- outstanding student loans of nominally £60 billion which in practice will be repaid at the rate of £1 or £2 billion a year via the 9% graduate tax surcharge. A core part of our manifesto is to get rid of stealth taxes on income (National Insurance, VAT and higher rate income tax) and restrict taxes on earnings to 20%. The 9% graduate tax is just another stealth tax and a particular burden on the under-thirties (all these stealth taxes on earnings wold be replaced with a tax on land values!). So we would simply write off the bulk of the nominal £60 billion accumulated debt on day one and make up the £1 or £2 billion shortfall in other ways.

- Overseas students. If UK universities can make a profit by charging international students £20,000 a year, why shouldn't they? We ought to welcome such students - just like any tourists they contribute to our invisible exports - and exclude them from immigration quotas.

- YPP have not said that we would cap domestic student numbers at 1 million or any other figure. We have said that we would abolish tuition fees/loans for the one million students studying something of obvious and immediate benefit to society as a whole.

If other people wish to study subjects for purely personal advancement or personal enjoyment, with no obvious net benefit to the taxpayer or society as a whole (law, drama, fine art, ancient history, most post-graduates degrees), then it is up to universities themselves to decide which subjects to offer and what fees to charge and how these will be settled. If such subjects are studied part-time, then the annual costs will be easily affordable by somebody in full time work.

Thursday 5 March 2015

YPP meet-up, Friday 6 March

Tomorrow Friday 6 March at The Brewmaster nr Leicester Square Tube (Exit 1 and turn left at the top of the stairs into "St Martin's Court") from about 5.20 onwards.

We put a yellow leaflet on the table so that you can recognise us.

Topics: Rohen and I are going to stand at the next General Election. If anybody else is up for it, please let us know.

Monday 2 March 2015

38 Degrees Campaign against TTIP

There is currently another 38 degrees campaign email doing the rounds about TTIP:

As a candidate in my local constituency, I would like you to oppose the TTIP trade deal. I’m really worried about the effect of TTIP (The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Patnership) on further privatisation of our NHS and public services, as well as the inclusion of an ISDS clause which could allow corporations to sue governments. A document leaked last week showed that the NHS still isn’t exempt from the deal.

You can read more about it here: Please can you tell me what you will do to stop this deal and protect our public services?

Our response to that:

We at YPP support free markets and free trade when it helps the Third World to develop; when it helps our exporters; and when it helps cut prices for domestic consumers.

But the TTIP is not about free markets or free trade, it is just the EU and the USA blatantly protecting the interests of the largest multinational corporations (including a few large UK corporations). We at YPP would revoke TTIP and its corporatist ramifications, and since we are committed to having a plebiscite on our continued membership of the EU this would be part of the way forward.

As to your specific example of the NHS, UK governments have illustrated just how expensive and damaging top down privatisation can be and what appalling value for taxpayers' money it is (PPP and PFI, anything involving Capita and so on). Nonetheless, we would support bottom up privatisation from the patient's point of view. So if private providers can provide care more cheaply, better or quicker than the NHS, then we support the old idea of the "patient passport" (taxpayer funded/private provision) which works so well in many other European countries.

Any comments please leave them below.