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Tuesday, 15 May, 2001, 08:47 GMT
Education - worth a penny more?

The Liberal Democrats have launched one of the key planks of their election programme - putting one penny more on income tax to pay for improvements in education.

At the moment, education is funded by general taxation. The Liberal Democrats would put 3bn more into education by increasing the basic rate of tax from 22 pence in the pound to 23.

They say that, among other things, they would cut average class sizes in primary schools to 25, recruit extra secondary school teachers and abolish red tape.

Would you be prepared to pay more income tax to fund better education?

Have Your Say The ideal situation to the problem of who pays for education would be if those who used the service paid for it themselves. Raising taxes is the most obscene form government; it takes away choice from the population. As can be seen from the last four years merely raising taxes and throwing money at all public services is not the solution to the problem, as the money is never spent wisely. People who choose to spend their own money spend it with better intentions than any government ever could.
Steve Bettison, London, England

Surely people who choose to have children should be the very ones paying any extra tax. If you can't afford it, the answers simple - don't procreate until you can.
Neil, London, England


Bearing children is fast becoming a luxury reserved for the well off

Justine, London, UK
I'd like to ask Neil of London what exactly he means by 'afford' (children, that is). Since the usual figure for the national average wage is just over 22,000, then assuming that both parents are earning, the combined wage would still not be enough to bring up children comfortably in London. Bearing children is fast becoming a luxury reserved for the well off. And when Nick retires, whose children will be keeping the economy going and ultimately his pension ticking over? Of course it is worth paying extra. People contesting otherwise are generally, like Nick, selfish and lacking in insight.
Justine, London, UK

The problem with most of these statements is that they consider education to be the same in all areas and schools. A penny on the basic rate of tax will be wasted if it's spent on schools with incompetent teachers and LEAs. Lib Dem policy is to ensure that the basic quality of staff is improved. It is worth paying if we're running things because it will be targeted properly. By accepting a place in society you accept the need to pay for it to run. People who object to having a civilised society with well-educated people should leave the country and settle somewhere less civilised instead.
David Ord, Lib-Dem, Newcastle, UK

In response to Justine, yes child bearing should be for the well off. If you're poor you wait until you've worked yourself into a better financial position. It's people such as yourself who are selfish, expecting everything delivered on a plate exactly when you want it, at a total disregard to others.
Neil, London, England

I'm sure it would help but ultimately it is not the answer. More emphasis on responsibility and competent parenting would help even more. Children with self-respect and self-discipline would be more ready and willing to learn. School is not the end of learning only the beginning. Enthusiasm shared by pupil and teacher in a mutual contract of respect and interest would be a good start.
Paul Bridle, London UK

The attitude of those who object to paying a penny for education simply because they don't have children is exactly the self-centred attitude that mars us as a nation. We need to promote a more sharing society and Charles Kennedy is the man to add some sorely-needed 'justice' to the equation.
Andrew Kearney, Manchester, UK


In Britain we pay some of the lowest taxes in Europe

Zahra Sadry, Oxford, England
This Lib Dem policy is simply not a question of promising the earth knowing they'll not be elected to deliver it. Here in Britain we pay some of the lowest taxes in Europe while still wanting the best of all public services. It is clear that this just doesn't add up, and we are surprised that other European countries are far exceeding our own results as education levels here continue to drop. It's time we stopped looking at things with the Thatcherist attitude of looking out for oneself and forgetting our social responsibilities. We should praise the Lib Dems. Hopefully their sense will shine through the political spin that the Labour and Tory parties seem intent on feeding us.
Zahra Sadry, Oxford, England

The electorate must realise that better services such as education will cost more money and this has to come from the taxes we payOur children are the future for our country; I fully support a penny on the basic rate of tax to pay for their education.
Nigel Howarth, Wokingham, UK

Living where I do any vote other than Labour is a waste. But I will waste it because both major parties have brought this country to its knees educationally speaking. It is a fact that there are not enough teachers. There is also an ongoing brain drain to the US, Europe and elsewhere. The ideas of Mandy, Bill and Steve (above) make me realise how this state of affairs came about!!
Stewart, Glasgow

Well done the Lib Dems for appreciating that more investment in education benefits our economy and society as well as the individuals receiving a school or university education. Tuition fees don't just put young people in debt but act as an extra 'tax' on supportive parents. I hope the public will back these proposals by putting more Lib Dems in parliament. People in Scotland have already noticed their positive influence in the Scottish Parliament over care and tuition fees.
Nigel Bennett, Sudbury,Suffolk

The Lib Dems can promise the sky if they wish because there is no chance whatsoever of them gaining power. This proposed of increased revenue and expenditure does not work, Enough is enough. No more tax increases.
Chris Klein, Chandlers Ford England

I strongly disagree with the idea of increased taxes. We already pay nearly 1 in every 2 that we earn in tax. This is too high. The key issue is how do we grow national income faster, on a consistent basis (say 3% - 4% a year)? That would deliver extra resources for public services and lower taxes. We need to get our GDP per head up to, say, German levels.
Mike Walsh, Grays, Essex, UK


You can't go on cutting taxes for ever

Allan Forrester, Westray, Orkney, UK
It's about time that people realised that you can't go on cutting taxes forever if you want to have any public services left. Of course flinging money at a problem doesn't solve it, but our public services are in the poor state they are because of years of chronic under-investment to pay for tax cuts. The Lib Dems' idea of a penny on the standard rate, and a new tax band for high earners is very sensible indeed.
Allan Forrester, Westray, Orkney, UK

There is already enough money in education. The problem is in the "progressive" educational methods. Allow teachers to discipline students, concentrate on the essential skills, and there will be money to spare.
John Atkins, Bridgwater, UK

A penny for education. A great idea, no reasonable person could object to surely? Well, except for those of us who know that much of the extra proceeds would be wasted on overheads and inefficiency, as public service funds generally are. But then next year they could always say, 'another penny on tax, well it is for a good cause isn't it'.
David Adams, Basingstoke, UK

If we expect a high standard of public service in this country, we must be prepared to fund the education systems which support it. A penny is a small price to pay, and if the Lib Dem promise is kept, I know exactly where it will go - where it is needed.
Ian Milsted, Brighton, UK

Our local village school is comparatively well funded and has smaller-than-average class sizes. But children still perform below average. Likewise, at university some of my class sizes were over 150, yet these were some of the best minds in the country. I think structural/social/discipline reforms will help education much more than a penny on income tax.
Paul R, UK


I feel like slapping the government for its tax cutting

Lizz, Surrey, UK
I think it's a great idea - I feel like slapping the current government for its ridiculous tax cutting exercises. Having finished university with sizeable debts, and that was before the tuition fees were introduced, I feel very strongly that the Lib Dems are the only party offering a serious solution to free education.
Lizz, Surrey, UK

By all means slap yet another penny on tax - but only on those with children at school. I already subsidise their children's basic education service - if they want better, they should fund it. Better still, stop giving child benefit to everyone, irrespective of income. Give a little more income support to the unemployed and low-waged, and claw back the 'wasted' child benefit and spend it on education.
Debbie, UK

I'm astounded by the selfishness and greed of some of the answers on this forum. Those people who have suggested that only those with children should be taxed to fund education should be ashamed of themselves. Just who is the future of our country? Who will be earning money to pay for our state pensions when we are old? Whose prosperity, through their better education, will aid our own prosperity? - everyone's children, whether you as an individual have children or not.
Michael Kilpatrick, Cambridge, UK

Of course education improvements are worth a penny more, so is the NHS and public transport. Unfortunately I don't believe the British public are willing to pay it. It's the same attitude displayed to life in general. People want mobile phones but not the phone masts, people want better roads but not near their homes.
Nigel Tregoning, Falmouth, Cornwall, UK.

Charles Kennedy and his Liberal Democrats make New Labour look positively right wing! Voters need to think carefully before they endorse the discredited tax and spend policies of the 1970's that did so much to damage this country.
Philip Stevens, London

While money is not the answer to all problems, it can help. London schools in particular are continuing to face a recruitment crisis due to the high cost of renting or buying property. Improving teachers salary would enable them to live in the city. Pupils would enjoy the benefit of content teachers.
Rob Banks, London


Those of us without children have other commitments and priorities

Mandy, UK
Yes, raise taxes to pay for better education. Take an extra 1 or 2p in the pound from everyone with children in state funded schools. Sounds fair to me! I don't expect you to pay for my cat's (1000 a year) veterinary treatment do I? And you'd soon start screaming, "unfair, they're your responsibility" if I did. Those of us without children have other commitments and priorities (and not all selfish). I'd rather up my monthly allotment to my chosen charity than give more to education.
Mandy, UK

This is just a gimmick. Already these people (politicians) take over 40% of the entire economy that's over 40p from every pound the country makes and still they are unable to deliver any decent public services. Giving these people more is like standing an alcoholic another round.
Mike Rees, Braintree,England


I agree totally that money is not the only solution to the educational problems in the UK

Stephen Psallidas (Lib-Dem candidate,UK
I agree totally that money is not the only solution to the educational problems in the UK. But Lib-Dems would also take other steps to slash stressful red tape and paperwork. We would drastically scale down the National Curriculum straitjacket. And we would scrap the terrible League Table system, which has steered many schools into a vicious circle of failure.
Stephen Psallidas (Lib-Dem candidate, UK

This argument misses the fundamental point that we already pay far more than the extra penny suggested, with no sign of improvement. The teachers in my family tell me that things have deteriorated in the last 4 years despite us all paying far greater taxes. We all want more money, politicians are no different, but they have proved they are incapable of spending wisely, so I say no, and help my PTA instead.
Julian Berks, Leeds, UK

Leicestershire has one of the lowest spend per child in the UK. One penny on income tax would be worth it if it guaranteed equality. Having said that I do not trust the Lib Dems to spend any money wisely, I have seen the mess they have made of Hinckley. They spend thousands on advertising (sound familiar?) instead of actually doing. I have found that if you actually want results then there is only one party, and that is the Conservative Party.
Bill Wonders, Leicester, England


I wanted to go to university from the age of eleven or twelve, and nothing was going to stop me

Mike Hall, Leicester, England
I am from a working class family of seven children. I wanted to go to university from the age of eleven or twelve, and nothing was going to stop me. During my school life I spent my infant years at four different schools, three in the city and one in a Scottish town. Later I moved to county schools in Leicestershire and a town school in Wakefield, Yorkshire. I had a role model of a hard working father and mother, who supported everything that I chose to do, even though they could not support me financially when I went to university. If people want to succeed, If they want their children to succeed, they can do it. More money will not make a difference to children, and they are the ones who matter.
Mike Hall, Leicester, England

I think that every sensible person in the UK would gladly pay more tax for better schools and better health care. It's a "no brain" decision.
Keith Moffitt, Switzerland

Certainly tax raises are justified for educational resources, and a responsible government like our Labour Government is fully capable of making that decision as and when needed.
Sterling Rauf, USA


Our whole society and economy benefits from better educated citizens

Mike Williams, Gloucestershire, UK
Our whole society and economy benefits from better educated citizens, therefore I see no reason why we should not all contribute a reasonable amount to it. A 1% rise in income tax is a small price for the benefits we will enjoy.
Mike Williams, Redmarley, Gloucestershire, UK

Why not pay for it with a penny on VAT? This is fair tax, paid by everyone,unlike income tax which probably not paid by most of the people who have time to contribute to this column. Alternatively we could go for a really fair solution and pay for it by a direct levy on those who chose to have children.
Frodo, Uk

Perhaps the problem is not the amount of money thrown at education, but rather the teaching arrangements in the classroom. Schools have been used for political/social research for the last thirty years, with comprehensive schools, non competitive sports days, bean bags styles of teaching and more recently the fixation on attainment tables. Before we waste yet more money would it not be worth while to set up teaching systems that actually work?
Barry, Havant, Hants.

We should first look at the unnecessary paper work and beaurocracy that can be cut. Once that is done we can look and see to see what needs to be spent. We also need to get rid of all the inefficient QUANGOs which are concerned with education. In fact all QUANGOs should go.
Andrew, Bolton, England

Quite frankly, anyone who objects to paying one extra penny is selfish. But I do agree that there should be some sound structure behind it, not just pouring in money and hoping it will make everything better.
Nick, Sheffield, UK


3bn for education in its present state is like pumping water through a broken hosepipe

James Kenyon, UK
I agree with Christian from Belgium. 3bn for education in its present state is like pumping water through a broken hosepipe! Until we actually have a decent educational structure in the UK, all the cash in the world will not make any difference to the overall outcomes, ie. the lowest levels of achievement in the EU.
James Kenyon, UK

As a confirmed single man without children I object to paying tax for the indiscriminate breeding of others. Why should those of us who choose not to have children (and there are an increasing number of us) pay for irresponsible parents who have children without any thought of how they will pay to raise and educate their offspring? It's time parents were held fully accountable for their actions.
Steve Allingham, London, UK

Sounds great, More money for schools, schools employ more teachers, everyone is better educated and no-one ever votes Tory again. Sorted!
Michael Millett, Bristol UK


I will vote for Lib Dem purely for this policy alone

John Clampin, Leicester, UK
I will vote for Lib Dem purely for this policy alone. There is an abundance of private wealth in this country, and a paucity of public funding for health and education. I think this is a great idea and it really wouldn't make much difference to my pocket.
John Clampin, Leicester, UK

I think this idea is half-baked. Particularly since it applies the Lib Dem policy of 1997 to a completely different tax situation. A good education system must provide equality of opportunity for all, have a stable and respected curriculum, and a credible examination regime. These basic principles must be supported and applied by well-trained and highly motivated teaching staff. It took the Tories 17 years to bring our education system to its knees: a penny on income tax is not going to restore it.
Tom, Norwich, UK

New Labour promised to reduce the size of classes. With three children in school, I am qualified to inform all you pro-Labour supporters, that these pledges have been badly ignored. To even contemplate paying more tax for education is sickening, particularly as this is not the answer as pointed out by several already in this talking point.
Gareth Beaumont, Watford, UK


Think of the ways an extra 3bn can be used to properly fund education

Jon Ellison, Newcastle, UK
I think the one penny extra on income tax is a small price to pay for better schools. Think of the ways an extra 3bn can be used to properly fund education. Money in the education system can be used to recruit more teachers to reduce class sizes for 11-16 year olds, and abolish university tuition fees allowing greater access to further education.
Jon Ellison, Newcastle, UK

Absolutely. The sad thing is that people will always agree to this argument but when it comes to the polling booth they seem to leave ethics behind and think about their wallet. Of course more funds are needed and I would gladly pay it, whether that be from my salary or at the petrol pump.
Mike, Bristol, UK

I agree that giving more money to the present education system is not the answer. I am married to a (very stressed) primary school teacher who constantly tells me about ridiculous situations. For instance, one school needed an extra teacher to handle the number of pupils coming into the school the next year. But when they asked for the funding, they were told that the money (which was there) couldn't be used for staff, instead the money was ear-tagged for data projectors! More money is not the answer. Just a grain of common sense in using it.
Gareth Fleming, Ballymena, N.Ireland

Yes, definitely pay extra tax to improve the educational standard. A 2p hike if necessary.
Naoko Fader, London, UK


Falling standards have more to do with misguided educational theories and politically motivated teachers

G. Cooper, London, England
Who's to say that any tax increase would even reach the schools? More likely, it would be squandered by bureaucracy and inefficiency. Britain's falling educational standards have more to do with misguided educational theories and politically motivated teachers than a lack of money. The answer to every problem really isn't simply to throw more money at it.
G. Cooper, London, England

A penny rise in income tax would only personally cost me about 200-240 a year extra. And while there are people who would resent it (those who can easily afford it) or claim they can't do without that money, I think it is worth it for better services. Problem is the Lib Dems just don't have the popular support and have admitted that they can't win this election.
Neil Halliday, UK

If there is a need for more money to be spent on education why not fund it from the current budget surplus? With the current economic downturn in the US there is unlikely to be any need to keep the surplus to combat inflation. I don't see that simply throwing more money at the problem is necessarily the best solution though.
Paul Peddle, London, England

Rather than raising extra money through taxation like this, why not give tax-breaks to those who send their kids to private schools? The state education system gives poor value for money, and it seems crazy to throw more and more of our money into a hole without there being some serious conditions attached.
Pete Morgan-Lucas, Wiltshire, UK


More funds alone are not the answer to education's problems

Christian J. DeFeo, Antwerp, Belgium
It is totally idiotic for anyone to claim that more funds and more funds alone are the answer to education's problems. You can spend what you like on education, but if the curriculum is poor, and the standards are low, you will get the same poor results no matter how much you spend. In order to justify this levy, the Liberal Democrats had better explain, and quickly, what precisely the extra money will be used for, and how they are going to increase standards of academic attainment. Otherwise, it's simply a waste of time and money.
Christian J. DeFeo, Antwerp, Belgium (ex-UK)

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