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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

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Opportunities for the young are being hurt

MUCH ‘heavy lifting’ in 2011, the Prime Minister promised in his New Year message. He was right.

The spending cuts announced in 2010 will begin to bite this year. But his claim that they are necessary and not driven by ideology is disingenuous, verging on the dishonest. So is the claim that we are all in this together. Those on low and middle incomes, those now paying for the bankers’ crisis, will be hardest hit. The majority of electors didn’t vote for them. The millionaires who govern us will not notice them.

The VAT rise also falls hardest on those with least. And hoping these deep cuts will be blamed on local councils and forgotten before a General Election, most of them are front-loaded.

Government funding for local authority services offering support for people most in need is being reduced by some 25 per cent over the next few years. Children and young people will be particularly badly hit as programmes like Sure Start and Connexions are under threat.

Some 950,000 young people are now unemployed, one of the highest figures since records began. The Prince’s Trust reports that unemployment among young people is causing them heightened problems. Yet one of the first things the Coalition scrapped was the Future Jobs Fund, providing temporary employment for young people out of work for more than six months. Even Parliament’s Work and Pensions Committee urged a rethink but to no avail. Education Maintenance Allowances which supported teenagers staying in education are being scrapped. Any replacement will have a budget a fraction the size.

Despite the rhetoric about maintaining in cash terms funding per pupil in schools, the amount allocated to each pupil will fall taking account of inflation. And the notion that schools will use the much-vaunted pupil premium for anything other than plugging gaps in funding elsewhere seems entirely fanciful. Reducing school sixth form funding to the level of further education colleges will lose schools another £120 million.

The further education budget for adult skills is being cut by a staggering 25 per cent. The Lib-Dem pledge to protect basic adult literacy and numeracy is yet another broken pledge.

The teaching grant to universities is being slashed by 80 per cent: tuition fees set to treble up to £9,000 a year to compensate.

The “big society” trope is no substitute for a society big enough to accept collective responsibility for the welfare of all So fairness is out of the window and services and opportunities severely damaged.

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