Council motion vote “supports students”


In an exciting debate and vote in Kingston’s Full Council chamber – Liberal Democrat members voted in favour of a motion to “support our residents in their opposition to the proposed unprecedented rise in graduate debt alongside wider education cuts”, agreeing that “a fairer system of funding [for university education] is both desirable and possible.”

In response to a community petition which called on Kingston councillors to debate the upcoming Government bill, the Liberal Democrat group proposed a motion in support of anti-fee campaigners. The petition received 658 online signatures on the Council website and 40 paper signatures.

At the beginning of last night’s public meeting, three pupils from local schools and a college student who lives in the Royal Borough presented the community petition titled ‘Tuition Fees, Public Opposition’. They made speeches to the chamber calling on the Council to oppose the Government’s student fee plans, explaining their fears of taking on thousands of pounds of personal debt if they chose to attend university.

In a named vote, all 24 sitting Liberal Democrat members of the Council voted in support of the motion – and every single one of the 19 Conservatives who attended the public meeting voted against.

Local Conservative Leader Howard Jones said that it was not a relevant issue to debate in the chamber – despite the popular community petition, protests outside the Guildhall two weeks ago and the student campaigners who attended the meeting. Cllr Jones added that “he was truly in support of the Government’s [fee] proposals”.

Backbench Liberal Democrat councillors Cllr Malcom Self, Margaret Thompson and Marc Woodall made speeches at the meeting representing the views of families who have aspirations for their children to partake in higher education – as well the local businesses which rely on students attending Kingston university.

Notes

1. The manifesto which Kingston Liberal Democrats stood on the 2010 local elections states that:

“Over the next four years we will… lobby for the abolition of student fees as we believe a university education should be free and everyone who has the ability should be able to go to university and not be prevented by cost. We will scrap tuition fees for full and part time students taking their first degree.”

This pledge therefore forms official Council policy as a Liberal Democrat administration.

2. Details of the motion to Full Council, 7th December 2010

Council accepts that our universities must be fully funded if they are to continue to provide high quality education to students. We note the recommendations of the Browne review into Higher Education funding and welcome the subsequent progressive reforms being adopted by the Coalition Government, including:

  • Increasing the repayment threshold for graduates from £15,000 to £21,000
  • Student loans will be extended to part time students
  • Maintenance grants and loans will be improved for students from lower income families
  • Ensuring all students will repay less per month than they currently pay

a) However, Council notes the considerable opposition from Kingston residents against the increase of tuition fees to up to £9,000 per year. Local concerns to the Coalition Government’s proposals were demonstrated in the student protests around the Royal Borough on Wednesday 24th November, as well as an ePetition launched on the RBK website which “calls for [this] council to support students by publicly opposing the Government's planned increase in tuition fees”

b) Council supports our residents in their opposition to the proposed unprecedented rise in graduate debt alongside wider education cuts. Council believes a fairer system of funding is both desirable and possible, so that:

  • Future generations of talented young people are not disincentivised from entering Higher Education and fulfilling their academic potential
  • Young graduates are not burdened with crippling levels of personal debt before they even start their adult, professional lives

c) Council also notes the Council policy programme which reads:

“Over the next four years we will… lobby for the abolition of student fees as we believe a university education should be free and everyone who has the ability should be able to go to university and not be prevented by cost. We will scrap tuition fees for full and part time students taking their first degree.”

And therefore agrees:

  • For the Council Leader to lobby Government with the contents of this motion

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