Budget 2016 Unveiled
George Osborne has revealed the Budget for 2016 to condemnation from Corbyn, who described it as “the culmination of six years of failure”, and a range of charities and NGOs. The biggest cause for concern was the revelation that the government would be cutting disability benefits by £4.4 billion. The Personal Independence Payments that so many with disabilities rely on are set to be cut in the single biggest money-making scheme of the Budget, while middle- and high- end earners are given a £31 million tax break. Even some Tory backbenchers are calling for a rethink amid statistics that 200,000 disabled people will lose their benefits altogether and twice that number will each lose £1,400 annually in benefits.
Similarly worrying is the education policy contained in the Budget: all schools will be required to become academies by 2020 (or commit to becoming one by 2022), divesting local authorities of their role in management of finances in state schools; longer school hours (among some of the unhappiest students in Western Europe) and perhaps mandatory maths lessons till aged 18 are also on the cards.
Also revealed was a sugar tax on soft drinks projected to generate £520 million in revenue, which will be used to promote sport and exercise in primary and secondary schools; increased tax rates on cigarettes and tobacco; halving oil and gas tax rates (from 20% to 10%) and reducing basic and higher rates of Capital Gains Tax by 10%. £700 million was pledged for flood defences, £115 million to reduce homelessness (although no strategies were outlined) and the target of £12 billion set to be raised over this parliament, partly through a crackdown on tax avoidance.
Despite all this, projected growth has been reduced from 2.4% to 2%.
(From the editor: No photo: To be honest all the photos kind of angered me)
Troubling revelations as to the extent of senior Church officials’ complicity in covering up child abuse cases have once more sprung up in the UK and France. It has emerged that cases of abuse by the then Bishop Ball of Gloucester – now serving 32 months in gaol for indecent assault and misconduct in public office convictions – were made known to the then Archbishop Carey of Canterbury, whose failure to report and alleged covering up of this information contributed to the two-decade delay in prosecution. It is not just the Church of England under scrutiny – this comes as French Prime Minister Manuel Valls calls on the city’s Cardinal Barbario to take responsibility for the supposed cover-up of paedophilic acts of abuse committed by the clergy in his diocese, including Bernard Preynat, the priest currently under investigation for abuse charges between 1986 and 1991. The Cardinal denies any knowledge or cover-up of the cases.
Meanwhile, Pope Emeritus Benedict’s latest call for a return to the dogmas of 16th Century missionaries appears to constitute either a crisis of faith or a genuine call to go back to an age of colonization and cultural and physical imperialism. In a recent statement Pope Benedict asks the piercing question “Why should you try to convince the people to accept the Christian faith when they can be saved even without it?” Why indeed.
UCL Cut The Rent
After rent in Halls accommodation at University College London increased to ridiculous levels by any standard but London, students living in university accommodation have withheld rent money in a bid to force the administration to take notice of students’ complaints and cut the rent by 40%. With some Halls now costing over £200 (and some as much as £270) a week, UCL Cut the Rent – the team behind the strike – recently put out a statement lambasting the university’s “flagrant disregard for socially accessible education - whilst seeking to criminalise access to a home for its own students …this can only accurately be described as a ‘social cleansing’ of the university.”
This fight against social cleansing seems to have fallen on deaf ears considering the views of Andrew Grainger, the head of UCL Estates, expressed recently at an open meeting: “We don’t set our rents on the basis of the least well-off students…. I’m sorry, but some people just simply cannot afford to study in London...and that is the fact of life.” For a university keen to flaunt its history as being founded on equal opportunity, this is hardly a rallying call for social mobility.
There is hope, however. While last week UCL management threatened strikers with eviction, these illegal proposed sanctions made national headlines and the university was forced to backtrack and has confirmed no action will be taken against striking students. This strike is at the forefront of a wider campaign to make the capital affordable for young people and with over £1 million apparently withheld so far the proposed cut of 40% in rent rates may soon not sound so outrageous to university management.
What do you think? Outrageous or justified? Join the conversation below!