The Pledge

“I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative”

That was the NUS pledge that I signed.

The new proposals are fairer. So – those who are angry at me and feel ‘betrayed’ do at least need to look at the comparative proposals and see if they are ‘fairer’. It would have been much easier to vote against – in a constituency like Hornsey & Wood Green where some Labour voters supported me – but as popular as that might have made me – why would I vote against something which will help poorer students when my mission is a society that is more equal.

For anyone actually interested in the detail – I paste some below.

• No-one pays a penny upfront. Students don’t pay, graduates do.
• For the first time, part time students won’t have to pay up front fees.
• All students will repay less per month compared to now.
• The lowest earning 25% of graduates will repay less overall.
• No-one earning £21,000 or less will pay anything (which will be increased each year in line with earnings).
• It will be the highest earners – around 25% of graduates – who will pay back more than they borrow.
• More than half a million students will be eligible for more non-repayable grants for living costs. Almost one million students will be eligible for more overall maintenance support.
• There will be an extra £150m for a new National Scholarship Programme for students from poorer backgrounds and we will introduce tough new sanctions of universities who fail to improve their access to students from backgrounds.
• The Council of Mortgage lenders has confirmed that higher fees will not impact on graduate’s ability to get a mortgage. Student loans data are not shared with credit reference agencies, so they will not impact on an individual’s credit score (either positively or negatively). Mortgage lenders worry about monthly outgoings which are lower than at preset.

This system gives graduates more disposable income when they need it most, when they’re starting out in their careers and moving home because their monthly payments are lower.

Monthly repayment comparators – our system versus the current system:

Job Title/Starting Salary/ Our System / Current System / Annual Saving                                  

Investment Banking / £38,250  / £129.38  / £174.38  / £540.00

Police constable (London) / £25,536 / £34.02 / £79.02 / £540.00

Average graduate scheme / £25,000 / £30.00 / £75.00 / £540.00

Engineering / £23,500 / £18.75 / £63.75 / £540.00

Social worker / £23,500 / £18.75 / £63.75 / £540.00

Police constable (outside London) / £23,259 / £16.94 / £61.94 / £540.00

Teacher (outside London) / £21,588 / £4.41 / £49.41 / £540.00

Librarian / £19,000 / £0.00 / £30.00 / £360.00

Third Sector / £19,000 / £0.00 / £30.00 / £360.00

Junior Sous Chef (London) / £18,000 / £0.00 / £22.50 / £270.00

Plumber / £17,313 / £0.00 / £17.35 / £208.17

Care assistant /£13,000 / £0.00 / £0.00 / £0.00

0 thoughts on “The Pledge

  1. As you probably already suspect, this will smash social mobility. £50k of debt is breathtaking if you come from a lower income household; people won’t entertain it, so the specifics of the policy won’t get to make a difference.

    If you had a shred of dignity left you’d resign.

  2. “For anyone actually interested in the detail – I paste some below.”

    Dear Lynne,

    Instead of pasting some details which no doubt emenated from central office, why don’t you share with us some of your own personal thoughts, feelings, angush … if it wasn’t easy tell us why not. Initially you admitted to being unsure, so when did things change? How about an honest human response …

  3. @Steve Simmons

    But surely repayments are only higher if wage inflation makes £15,000 in 2016 worth the same as £21,000 today. That probably isn’t going to be the case therefore repayments will be lower, no?

  4. “Lib Dem Parliamentary spokesperson Lynne Featherstone has laid down a challenge to Labour MP Barbara Roche over the controversial issue of student top-up fees.

    Labour’s 2001 election manifesto promised not to introduce top-up fees. Now, however, many in the government are supporting plans to let universities charge higher fees – with the result that access to the top universities will be determined by wealth rather than ability.

    Ms Featherstone says this suggested U-turn is a betrayal of Labour promises over the issue, and the local MP should be supporting hard-up local students on the issue, particularly with the area having many students and the Middlesex University campus in Bounds Green.

    Lynne Featherstone comments:

    “I welcome the fact that some Labour MPs have already spoken out against top-up fees – recognising that if the government breaks its promises on this issue students will suffer as access to university courses is determined by wealth rather than ability.

    “I urge Barbara Roche to join her colleagues like Frank Dobson and speak up clearly and publicly against top-up fees.” ”

    ——————————————————-

    So, were you “misleading” us then or now Lynne? What kind of society is it when our “leaders” don’t even follow their own advice. Hypocrisy doesn’t even cover it!

  5. RobC

    You don’t seem to understand how taxation works. You can’t opt out of paying for things that you personally don’t use. Otherwise I would opt out of paying for Lynne’s salary because I seem to get no benefit at all from her work.

  6. Steve Simmons

    Thanks mate. Your rudeness partly explains why the people I was referring to don’t post on these kind of blogs. Perhaps I am ignorant in this matter in your learned eyes but I’m still entitled to a point of view. As Lynne herself says it would have been much easier to vote against and I myself don’t particularly like the increases and I’m sure neither does Vince Cable or Nick Clegg but I appreciate if you support the idea of higher education being available to 40% or more of 18 year olds then it has to be affordable. Are you suggesting we revert to the situation 30 years ago when there were no loans and only 10% or so went to university?

  7. @Adam Brookes
    Take the Enginnering example: £23,500: (23500-21000)*.09/12 = £18.75

    If as you say, the 15k threshold becomes the same as 21k (x40%), then 23500 becomes £32950, meaning £32950: (32900-21000)*.09/12 = £89.25

    However, that’s quite an unlikely rate of wage inflation over the next 6 years! 3% annual inflation would give £28060: (28060-21000)*.09/12 = £52.95

    So it’s not that much lower than the figure of £63.75 quoted by Lynne. However, mortgage deposit saving is determined by earnings over a few years during which time the new graduate will likely receive substantial pay rises taking the amount being paid on a monthly basis beyond that quoted by Lynne. However, the really damaging part is the fact that the graduate will be making these payments for a far longer period, inhibiting the paying down of mortgage debt/saving to prepare for any change of circumstances in the mortgage terms/personal cirumstances or to trade up to a nicer house or simply save for retirement.

    Even if the new system doesn’t inhibit the new graduate in their saving for a mortgage deposit to a massive extent, then it certainly does prohibit them from paying down debt, saving, etc, given then longevity of the repayments. Debt is debt is debt and the longer you have lots of it the more interest you will pay and less interest you will receive on savings as well as the simple fact that it will take longer to clear the principal.

  8. sorry, “becomes £32950, meaning £32950: (32900-21000)*.09/12 = £89.25”
    should say “becomes £32900, meaning £32900: (32900-21000)*.09/12 = £89.25”

  9. It is difficult to engage with so many comments. I will deal with the pledge issue.

    The pledge talks first about “fees”. One option is for “fees” to paid entirely by the government out of general taxation. If that were to be done the interpretation that each strand of the pledge stands in isolation would imply that MPs would be bound to vote against any increase in capitation/fees funding.

    The pledge then talks about “a fairer alternative”. It is quite clear that if “a fairer alternative” is in place then the constraint on not increasing university funding does not exist.

    Hence my interpretation (which I think is Lynne’s) of the pledge is that until the system is made (adequately) fairer the cap should not increase.

    Some of the proposals for making the system fairer have already been announced. I personally believe that it is possible to change the system so that people do not graduate with debt, but instead graduate with a contractual commitment to pay additional tax. (where the government pays the fees as an investment in the student and the student pays additional tax much like when a record company invests in a band).

    However, although I am working on this I haven’t got there yet.

    It would, however, be good to scrap student debt in this way.

  10. @Steve Simmons

    I’m afraid I have to admit to have become lost in your calculations there. Let’s just be clear, are you saying a threshold of £21k is not better than a threshold of £15k?

    As for “debt is debt is debt”, not all debt is created equal. You’re not going to have your home reposed if you can’t afford to repay your student loan and if you can’t afford repayments you aren’t being charged a real rate of interest. What other debt comes on such favourable terms?

  11. How about an honest human response…….
    ——————————————-
    honest and human politicians are in Imaginationland with Santa Claus and the care bears. After years in the wilderness, the Liberal Democrats have shown themselves to be no different from Labour and Conservatives.

    I have no real political affilitation; at the time of elections i carefully consider what’s on offer and use my vote for the candidate/party that i believe can affect the greatest change for me, my area and my country. This year i believed it was the Liberal Democrats, and their stance on tuition fees was a major factor. I feel so foolish at the moment to have been drawn in by them.

    What compounds my misery is being patronised for apparently not understanding the complications of this ruling. I guess 21 Lib Dem, 4 tories and 279 other ministers are all equally stupid lynne! you can post all the numbers facts and figures that you want, but £21,000 will always be greater then £9,000. This move will only benefit the minority (“The lowest earning 25% of graduates will repay less overall”), yet how is that creating “a society that is more equal”? Surely a policy that is better for 51% would fit in better with your “mission”.

    to borrow a popular phrase;

    “SHAME ON YOU FOR TURNING BLUE”

  12. If someone earns £22,000 they pay £7.50 per month. Over 30 years that is £2,700. The government pays the rest.

    At the moment someone earning £22,000 pays £52.50 per month for 25 years. That is a maximum in cash terms of £15,750 over their lifetime. (they may not have had that much from the government in the first instance).

    That is how some people end up better off.

  13. Why don’t we privatise the NHS. We can cut funding dramatically and patients can pay for 80% of their treatment. that way only the sick (“because the prime benefit is still to the individual” patient) will suffer and the healthy will be better off. We can also get insurers (HMOs) to often some kind of insurance coverage. Whilst we’re at it, myself and my family do not benefit from the following and i would like them all abolished in the interest of fairness:
    Subsidies to train operators
    free school meals
    Jobseekers allowance
    council housing etc etc

    thanks

  14. @Adam Brookes
    “are you saying a threshold of £21k is not better than a threshold of £15k?”

    I’m saying it is slightly better, but the difference is not as great as it seems owing to the effects of inflation between now and when the threshold comes into effect. That means that the figures quoted by Lynne in that table are highly misleading.

    “As for “debt is debt is debt”, not all debt is created equal. You’re not going to have your home reposed if you can’t afford to repay your student loan and if you can’t afford repayments you aren’t being charged a real rate of interest. What other debt comes on such favourable terms?”

    If a graduate has a greater debt to service, for a longer period then it means that they will not be able to save (or overpay their mortgage) to the same extent. This has an impact if they are made redundant (for example, although their are any number of reasons for a reduction in earnings) or their mortgage rates go up, as they will not be able to service their mortgage from their savings to the same extent (when income is insufficient to cover the mortgage repayments), before their savings are used up. The probablity of repossession, for graduates, therefore goes up.

    Secondly, (and apologies for the repetition) the fact that graduates will be making these payments for longer will mean that they will have to work for longer before retirement (because of the loss of savings ability due to higher gross capital repayments and the costs of servicing interest on greater levels of debt). However, this doesn’t apply to the same extent if the graduate ends up working on a low paid job or a highly paid job, as the percentage of their gross income over 30 years dedicated to servicing the debts will be less. The proposals are regressive above middle incomes, which is one of my particular gripes (and as such are in contradiction of Lib Dem policy on funding HE through progressive taxation).

  15. Are you aware that your final bullet point, suggesting that student loan repayments can be ignored for mortgage application purposes, is contrary to the current practice of retail banks and all consumer advisory groups, who always advocate assessing all of an applicant’s monthly outgoings? The suggestion is not in the former students interest, unless you want to a proportion of students unable to meet their repayhment obligations, and it is highly irresponsible to suggest this.

    • The Council of Mortgage lenders has confirmed that higher fees will not impact on graduate’s ability to get a mortgage. Student loans data are not shared with credit reference agencies, so they will not impact on an individual’s credit score (either positively or negatively). Mortgage lenders worry about monthly outgoings which are lower than at preset.

  16. Perhaps John Hemming MP can concentrate the self justification on his own constituents in the hope that he can save his seat? He has recently announced that his constituency office is “cruelty free”. I’m not sure many of the people who voted for him will agree.

  17. Lynne, you can try and sex up the proposals as much as you want, your constituents have already heard it, and they gave you their view – which you ignored. The reality is that you are part of a coalition that has withdrawn 80% from the Higher Education budget – a proposal that was never put in front of the electorate – and you are only there because you pledged not to so. The result has been obtained through trickery and dishonesty, and has no legitimacy. Shame on you, as one of the 28 you have perverted the course of politics – and saddled hundreds of thousands of young people, that bear no responsibility for the fiscal deficit, with half a lifetime of debt. You will get the numbers at University down – which is what the Tories wanted – but you have provided no alternative higher education for those that can’t now face such debt either. So what are those young people going to do, Lynne?

  18. Lynne, could you please add to each of your repayment estimates:

    (1) number of years to repay the loan, and increase in this under your system.

    (2) total amount repaid, and increase under your system.

    (3) total APR over the lifetime of the loan, and increase under your system.

    If you were selling cars, I would PROSECUTE you for breaching consumer regulations by omitting the above from your “offer”. What makes this coalition think they can get away with the dubious marketing ploys of the worst loan sharks?

  19. if you are so sure what you did was right resign and see if you win again dont think so youre still a liar look at the detail of your pledge if youre intrested

  20. Lynne

    I can’t still believe you’re flogging this one to us – I thought you’ve already done the dirty….. targeted students rather than tax avoiders and evaders (worth roughly £75bn).

    You’re starting to sound like a Conservative (or worse, Nick Clegg), perhaps it’s time for your website to just go blue.

  21. Lynne you stole my vote and lied to me about the pledge. In a coalition government the promise should have been the red line but you had no moral courage and just kept yourself in power.

    My deep sense of betrayal leads me to post this again http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTLR8R9JXz4

  22. Under the old scheme, my granddaughter would have graduated with a debt of £10,000. Now she is likely to graduate with a debt of between £30,000 and £40,000. How is this more fair? In the first instance, the family planned to pitch together with her to pay off this debt within a reasonable period of time. Now it is completely beyond our means. We would never encourage a young person of not more than 22 years to land themselves in life long debt like this. The dream has gone like a candle being snuffed out!

  23. Please don’t suggest that your constituents are not bright enough to understand the details. Perhaps you should take a closer look.

    If the bottom 25% of graduates will pay less under the new system, the top 75% of graduates are likely to pay more.

    This means 25% of graduates earning beneath the median graduate income will pay more. BENEATH the median income. That doesn’t sound like progress to me.

    And it is not fair to focus so much on individually lower monthly payments in this blog, because you are forgetting to include details of the length of repayment – how many years is this for? People are interested in both.

  24. The banking bailout cost the taxpayer £850bn, however, the banks are only paying a £2.5bn banking levy (without taking into account the corporation tax deduction that was gifted to them).

    It rather sounds to me like you and this ‘government’ would rather see students (along with numerous other targeted groups) paying off the banking debts.

    Please, give over, who are you trying to fool.

  25. why would I vote against something which will help poorer students when my mission is a society that is more equal.
    ——————————————
    what i don’t understand with this is why do the “poorer” students get grants? surely it is unfair if they get grants since “no-one pays a penny upfront” and the repayment is based upon their future earnings. So why should a graduate who won’t receive grants have to pay back more than a graduate who received grants, even if they both get a similar paying job in the end?

  26. Debt is debt. Yours is a Party of supplicant puppets and duplicitous serpents. For shame.

  27. >Please, give over, who are you trying to fool.

    Bob. If you believe what you have written clearly it is easy to fool you. Try to get some of the facts right.

  28. Lynne has introduced ‘moderation’ into her blog.
    In many ways, it’s not surprising, given the level of criticism against her.
    After all this used to be a backwater of a blog.
    Right now no-one has a good word to say about her.

  29. Lynne has introduced ‘moderation’ into her blog.
    In many ways, it’s not surprising.
    After all this used to be a backwater of a blog.
    Right now no-one has a good word to say about her.

  30. Mr Hemming MP.

    A lot of people were fooled into voting for the likes of you. Won’t be fooled again.

  31. Bob. If you believe what you have written clearly it is easy to fool you. Try to get some of the facts right.
    ——————————————-
    he vited lib dem so yes, yes he is very easily fooled!

  32. The Guardian today refers to an analysis from HEPI that suggests that the new scheme passed on December 9th might cost the government as much, or more, than the present scheme. To treble fees while making no saving sounds like astonishing incompetence, If time had been allowed for proper thought, this whole catclysm might have been avoided

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/dec/13/lib-dem-lady-sharp-tuition-fees?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

  33. Lynne, I do appreciate you engaging online with your constituents. However, I fear you are delusional.

    1. Are you SERIOUSLY saying that fees of up to 9K (per year) will have ZERO impact on social mobility?

    2. Do you seriously believe that ‘tough new sanctions of universities who fail to improve their access to students from backgrounds’ will work?

    Try as they might (and they really did try!) the last government could not get Russell Groups unis to improve access – there is absolutely no reason why coalition will manage this.

    3. If the coalition were serious about social mobility they would NOT have axed AimHigher (or EMA, for that matter)- these policies actually worked.

    4. This will create a market in Higher Education where the Russell Group unis will thrive and become richer and the post-92 unis (who do the most work in widening participation in communities) will sink.

    There is a real possibility that some specialist colleges, such as those teaching music and drama, will close. It was found that found 9 out of 10 university leaders thought a university would be forced to close.

    The issue of 9k tuition is one issue, the marketisation of higher education and the fact the coalition is pulling the funding rug away from universities (and expecting students, or rather their parents, to pay) is something YOU MUST reexamine.

  34. David Colquhoun – the subsidy is being moved both from subjects to graduates. ie the poorer graduates pay less. yes less. that is less over their lifetime. The money comes from general taxation.

    Those protesting about this are generally defending the interests of the upper middle class.

  35. @John Hemming MP

    To be told to ‘try to get some of the facts right’ by a Liberal Democrat MP strikes me as somewhat ironic.

    Anyway, what are you doing on Lynne’s blog? Is there nothing to do for Birmingham Yardley at the moment?

  36. And those MP’s coming onto this blog are practising sophistry. Mr Hemming you signed a pledge. it said that you would not vote for a rise in tuition fees. You can make as many excuses as you like but you broke your pledge. Go and defend yourself on your own blog.

  37. Steve – why should parents pay? They don’t pay their children’s tax or their children’s pension contributions, so why should they pay their children’s tuition fee repayments?

  38. Val

    Because they are parents who love their children, want to see them educated and would rather not see them live a life in penury.

  39. Adam – I love my child, but I wouldn’t want to pay her tax for her when she grows up! I don’t see how tuition fee repayments are any different.

    And they’re not going to be living in penury. Stop scare-mongering. If you never earn a lot over 21,000, then a large amount of your debt is going to be written off after 30 years. It’s those who earn more and can well afford to make repayments that are going to have to make them, rather than relying on general taxation to fund their education – which really does punish those in penury.

  40. General taxation punishes those in penury?

    Cutting disability benefits, welfare benefits, social security benefits, the NHS, housing benefits and letting bankers off the hook on the other hand has a nil effect.

    You love your child but only up to the age of 18. Thereafter they are on their own.

    Since when was opposing someone’s view to be patronisingly characterised as scaremongering and brushed aside? You come off sounding more like Margaret T.

  41. >Go and defend yourself on your own blog.

    All the details about the pledge are on my own weblog.

    I do not think that introducing a “progressive graduate contribution” to replace the current scheme is either against the pledge or a betrayal of party principles.

  42. “I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament”.

    Go on tell us again Mr Hemming how we have all misunderstood this incredibly complex sentence and rely on the coalition agreement and/or second half of the sentence to clarify it.

    I am not interested in your betrayal of party principles. I am interested in the betrayal of thousands of people up and down the country who voted for you and Lynne BECAUSE you took this pledge. If you don’t believe me stand down force a by election and prove me wrong.

  43. Adam – would you pay your child’s tax payments for them? Then what difference is there between that and tuition fee repayments?

    Re. general taxation – I meant that it’s wrong to expect low earners who may be in penury to foot the bill for someone’s university education.

    Re. disability benefits – I do disagree very strongly with those being cut, and have major concerns about the upcoming review/replacement of DLA. That’s partly why I’m so angry about the massive amount of energy that’s being put into to fighting tuition fees when we should be focusing on more important things.

  44. Tax is money paid for money that you EARN. We pay it for the betterment of society in general. Many of us believe education is a fundamental part of that.

    A tuition fee is money SPENT on education. Money spent on education is recouped via general tax.

    It’s not that tricky.

  45. Firstly you reneged on a pledge. I can’t find any mention of small print in this pledge that it wouldn’t apply in the event of you forming a coalition. This undermines for at least a generation any credibility in your party and prohibits your party from making any future pre election pledges.
    Any suggestion this is fair or progressive is specious. The debt applies for 30 years. There are no guarantees that interest rates won’t be hiked up or the loan companies sold on for profit and less favourable terms applied. Even if there were what value is a Lib Dem guarantee?
    In the meantime British universities are starved of their teaching budgets and are already implementing cuts to their programmes. Students entering universities in the next 3-5 years will be saddled with a working life long deferred debt in return for an ever diminishing service: less tutorial support, diluted seminars, no investment in library services, no investment in teaching equipment or resources, no associate lecturers who often bring current industry practices from outside the universities.
    Yes Labour contributed to this mess but it the actions of the Lib Dems and the Tories who have at a stoke made a bad situation iniquitous and unworkable.
    You Lynne come from a pampered generation who enjoyed free higher education, who benefited from a booming housing market and who can now look forward to free bus passes and winter fuel allowances regardless of wealth. You belong to a generation that mouths off about equality having enjoying the fruits of your parents generation sacrifices and struggles. Your generation has subscribed to booming property prices, unregulated banking and a culture of self serving greed. You are now dumping the bill on the next generation, pulling up the ladder and espousing that ruinous and blasé mantra of ‘its only debt you can pay it back when you’re earning’.

    I don’t approve of pulling down the flag from the cenotaph, or paint spaying the statue of Churchill or attempting to set fire the Norwegian Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square. For me those will always be symbols of an heroic generations’ fight against fascism. However I do look towards the suffgettes. There’s was above all a campaign: increasingly militant, increasingly staged to cause outrage in an emergent popular press. The current generation of young people have equal cause. A new enemy of inequality and injustice. They need to find their targets. It’s your generation: self serving, debt deferring and above all politically dishonest. And as the ‘Orwellian, Newspeak’ Minister for Equalities in a Collation Government of Etoninan led inequality, it must be you.

  46. Lynne, do you know what the word “and” means? Take a look at the following example:-

    “I pledge to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative”

    In the example the word “and” makes it necessary to fulfil both parts of the sentence in order to keep to the pledge.

    Now we come to the word “pledge” itself …..

  47. what i don’t understand with this is why do the “poorer” students get grants? surely it is unfair if they get grants since “no-one pays a penny upfront” and the repayment is based upon their future earnings. So why should a graduate who won’t receive grants have to pay back more than a graduate who received grants, even if they both get a similar paying job in the end?
    ———————————————-
    how come noone has answered this? By all means provide financial aid in the form of hardship grants etc to meet living costs during the course of their education, but why provide tuition fee discount. As stated many times here, people will not have to pay it back until they are earning so how does the wealth of an individuals parents prior to enrollment affect their ability to pay off the fees post graduation? Valerie has already mentioned parents won’t be paying the “tax” back so the only reason i can see for this is that you concede that the proposals would scare off individuals from poorer backgrounds and this is a sweetener to tempt them. Or that the Lib Dems don’t care about any individual who’s parent earn above £16,000 and you are intent on making life more difficult for us in the future.

  48. Re. general taxation – I meant that it’s wrong to expect low earners who may be in penury to foot the bill for someone’s university education.
    ———————————————————
    how much does a low earner earn then? am i wrong in thinking that “low earners” generally get more out of the system then they put in? benefits, NHS, free education upto age 18 for any children and so on. footballers, as greedy as we may think they are, can pay upwards of £50,000+/week in tax and ~I’m guessing they don’t receive that much back from the state. Is it fair on them to subsidise us then?