Raise corporation tax to abolish tuition fees

Business must make its contribution to removing the fear of debt from our education system.

Did New Labour give big business too easy a time? On tax, the answer is a clear yes. The coalition government has inherited lower corporation tax than even the John Major and Margaret Thatcher governments had.

Our company tax rates are lower, too, than those in the US, France, Germany, Japan and Canada. Has this low taxation persuaded business to invest more in its staff? The answer is no. Expenditure on workforce training and education is lower here than elsewhere, as is the proportion of profits allocated to reinvestment in research and development.

Now, while the coalition government tells us all to tighten our belts, it proposes to reduce corporation tax still further. George Osborne's aim is to give us the lowest profit taxes in the G20, which would deprive the Treasury of £6.4bn a year at a time when new school buildings and free school meals are considered a luxury by Clegg and Cameron.

So why isn't this a major issue in the Labour leadership elections? Why are candidates not raising public awareness of what amounts to the legal pickpocketing of public-sector workers, students, the unemployed and pensioners in order to fund tax breaks for multinationals?

The University and College Union (UCU) proposes that, instead of cutting the tax on company profits, we should raise it to that of the average in the G7. This would raise enough money to abolish university tuition fees and give hard-working families an opportunity to get tap in to a better education without fear of debt.

It is not merely an ideological assault on business. A landmark 1997 report concluded that the beneficiaries of higher education should foot the bill. The report identified the three beneficiaries as the student, the state and business. We have seen both fees and top-up fees introduced to squeeze more money out of the student and sustained increases from the state. We have seen nothing from business.

The current debate on higher education funding has been far too narrowly focused on how to try and squeeze more money out the individual student through higher fees or graduate taxes. Our plans are the fairest way to make business, rather than students or taxpayers, pay for the numerous benefits it gets from UK higher education.

Simply raising corporation tax to the G7 average would raise £3.9bn in revenue and would allow the UK to abolish tuition fees altogether. Furthermore, it would not deprive the Treasury of the billions that Osborne's cuts will.

Access to education is a central driver of social mobility and should be a natural Labour issue. Shifting the balance from individual taxation to a tax on profits is ethical, and would fund public services such as education at a time when cash is short. Yet it would still leave the UK with one of the lowest company tax rates in the G7.

All the polling on student funding shows the country is vehemently against higher university fees, yet the Lib Dems have spectacularly conceded any ground they had gained in the area by reneging on their election commitment to campaign and vote against a rise in fees.

Most of all, for those who aspire to lead Labour, opening up this debate would begin to redress the idea that many people had when the party was in government: that it was on the side of the fat cats, not the people.

Sally Hunt is general secretary of the University and College Union, the largest post-16 education trade union in the world.

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The 8 bits of good news about integration buried in the Casey Review

It's not all Trojan Horses.

The government-commissioned Casey Review on integration tackles serious subjects, from honour crimes to discrimination and hate crime.

It outlines how deprivation, discrimination, segregated schools and unenlightened traditions can drag certain British-Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities into isolation. 

It shines a light on nepotistic local politics, which only entrench religious and gender segregation. It also charts the hurdles faced by ethnic minorities from school, to university and the workplace. There is no doubt it makes uncomfortable reading. 

But at a time when the negative consequences of immigration are dominating headlines, it’s easy to miss some of the more optimistic trends the Casey Report uncovered:

1. You can always have more friends

For all the talk of segregation, 82 per cent of us socialise at least once a month with people from a different ethnic and religious background, according to the Citizenship Survey 2010-11.

More than half of first generation migrants had friends of a different ethnicity. As for their children, nearly three quarters were friends with people from other ethnic backgrounds. Younger people with higher levels of education and better wages are most likely to have close inter-ethnic friendships. 

Brits from Black African and Mixed ethnic backgrounds are the most sociable it seems, as they are most likely to have friends from outside their neighbourhood. White British and Irish ethnic groups, on the other hand, are least likely to have ethnically-mixed social networks. 

Moving away from home seemed to be a key factor in diversifying your friendship group –18 to 34s were the most ethnically integrated age group. 

2. Integrated schools help

The Casey Review tells the story of how schools can distort a community’s view of the world, such as the mostly Asian high school where pupils thought 90 per cent of Brits were Asian (the actual figure is 7 per cent), and the Trojan Horse affair, where hardline Muslims were accused of dominating the curriculum of a state school (the exact facts have never come to light). 

But on the other hand, schools that are integrated, can change a whole community’s perspective. A study in Oldham found that when two schools were merged to create a more balanced pupil population between White Brits and British Asians, the level of anxiety both groups felt diminished. 

3. And kids are doing better at school

The Casey Report notes: “In recent years there has been a general improvement in educational attainment in schools, with a narrowing in the gap between White pupils and pupils from Pakistani, Bangladeshi and African/Caribbean/Black ethnic backgrounds.”

A number of ethnic minority groups, including pupils of Chinese, Indian, Irish and Bangladeshi ethnicity, outperformed White British pupils (but not White Gypsy and Roma pupils, who had the lowest attainment levels of all). 

4. Most people feel part of a community

Despite the talk of a divided society, in 2015-16, 89 per cent of people thought their community was cohesive, according to the Community Life Survey, and agreed their local area is a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together. This feeling of cohesiveness is actually higher than in 2003, at the height of New Labour multiculturalism, when the figure stood at 80 per cent. 

5. Muslims are sticklers for the law

Much of the Casey Report dealt with the divisions between British Muslims and other communities, on matters of culture, religious extremism and equality. It also looked at the Islamophobia and discrimination Muslims face in the UK. 

However, while the cultural and ideological clashes may be real, a ComRes/BBC poll in 2015 found that 95 per cent of British Muslims felt loyal to Britain and 93 per cent believed Muslims in Britain should always obey British laws. 

6. Employment prospects are improving

The Casey Review rightly notes the discrimination faced by jobseekers, such as study which found CVs with white-sounding names had a better rate of reply. Brits from Black, Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds are more likely to be unemployed than Whites. 

However, the employment gap between ethnic minorities and White Brits has narrowed over the last decade, from 15.6 per cent in 2004 to 12.8 per cent in 2015. 

In October 2015, public and private sector employers responsible for employing 1.8m people signed a pledge to operate recruitment on a “name blind” basis. 

7. Pretty much everyone understand this

According to the 2011 census, 91.6 per cent of adults in England and Wales had English as their main language. And 98.2 per cent of them could speak English. 

Since 2008-2009, most non-European migrants coming to the UK have to meet English requirements as part of the immigration process. 

8. Oh, and there’s a British Muslim Mayor ready to tackle integration head on

The Casey Review criticised British Asian community leaders in northern towns for preventing proper discussion of equality and in some cases preventing women from launching rival bids for a council seat.

But it also quoted Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, and a British Muslim. Khan criticised religious families that force children to adopt a certain lifestyle, and he concluded:

"There is no other city in the world where I would want to raise my daughters than London.

"They have rights, they have protection, the right to wear what they like, think what they like, to meet who they like, to study what they like, more than they would in any other country.”

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.