Three councils end discretionary grants to students

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Three councils have stopped giving discretionary grants to students and more than half will cut back on the amount they spend, according to a Labour Party survey published yesterday. Ten have made cuts of at least 50 per cent.

The grants are awarded to mature students, adults taking access courses to qualify for higher education, 16- to 19-year-olds whose families cannot afford to keep them in education, and students on courses such as dance and drama who are not eligible for mandatory awards.

Tony Lloyd, a Labour education spokesman, said: 'The survey shows that in many parts of the country the service has now been devastated. These courses will now be reserved for people who can support themselves.'

Mr Lloyd has written to John Patten, Secretary of State for Education, pointing out remarks made by Tim Boswell, Minister for Higher Education, in the Commons earlier this month.

Mr Boswell said that if a local authority decided not to give any awards, 'that would be tantamount to a withdrawal of discretion and would be a very serious matter.'