Letters: Graduate tax

Graduate tax deeply unfair
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The Independent Online

So, a student who graduates with first-class honours, and thus gains a better job with a higher salary, will pay (much) more for their degree than someone who spends all their time in the bar and scrapes a third. Once again, we find a way to reward failure and punish success.

A graduate tax will deter many from an ordinary background, especially now the message is clear that a job does not flow from anything but the best results, in a vocational subject. It will also greatly increase state control of academia, at a time when our universities need to compete in an open global market. After much of the money has been pilfered to serve political expediency, there will not be enough left to do the job. It's difficult to be dynamic when starving and with hands tied.

I remember spending a summer drumming up funds for a new department. I got promises of help from every American company I approached, but nothing, except occasional wrath, from British business. It's way past time that uk.plc started to pay for the higher education on which its success depends. Yes, they already pay taxes, but so do businesses that do not use graduates.

I suggest a different kind of graduate tax, one on businesses that hire graduates. This can be effected without state intervention, by allowing universities to charge the fees they need, then requiring the employer to pay them, in much the same way as they pay National Insurance charges to fund medical care and unemployment benefits.

As a father, I know well that parents cannot be bled further, nor will we see our children demoralised by debt before they even begin their working life.

Think again, Dr Cable.

Dr Ian East

Islip, Oxfordshire

Vince Cable is exploring the idea of a graduate tax to recoup some of the cost of university education. He stated that, on average, university graduates earn a net £100,000 more than non-graduates over a working lifetime.

If that is true, they will already have paid £40,000 more income tax than their non-graduate counterparts, more than the cost of their higher education. Under the pretext of fairness, is Dr Cable suggesting that they should pay twice?

Robin Trebilcock


If we have a graduate tax, in 20 years time how will it appear to two neighbours who are earning similar salaries but paying different amounts of tax? The one who went to university might find it difficult to accept that he is paying more because his earning potential is higher. Will the election campaign in 2030 be fought on ending unfair taxation?

Julian Gall

Godalming, Surrey

Too many ranks in police force

Inevitably in this austere time, self-protectionism is widespread. Most groups in the public service will close ranks in defence of their status quo. The police, apparently, see attack as their best form of defence. Ten days or so ago, the chairman of ACPO spoke out, threatening abundant terrorism if government cuts were applied to the police. Now former chief constable Tim Brain joins the fray, threatening widespread redundancies and the diminishing of "front-line policing".

It is this very attitude that the Government must confront. The power tower of nine levels of rank, spread across 43 constabularies, each with a plethora of deputy and assistant chief constables, is as out-dated as it is inefficient. Multi-layered management systems are bureaucratic, expensive and make those at every level greedy for power, thus robbing those below them of any real autonomy.

Fully reported in The Independent 17 years ago, the Sheehy Report advocated reducing the number of ranks from nine to six. Besides creating a large drop in the salary bill with no reduction at street level, this could bring modern management practice to bear, giving the lower ranks decision-making powers.

ACPO would serve the country better if it put its collective mind and experience into real change rather than this rearguard self- protective action.

Self-interested power groups must be fought, whether bankers or senior police officers.

Jon Choppin

Sible Hedingham, Essex

Andrew Whyte (Letters, 12 July) may accuse the Met of being bloated, but I suggest he reviews the facts more closely.

The £150m spent on the Human Resources department includes five areas not normally covered by HR staff. In addition to "regular" HR, it covers £28m on transport (the management of all police vehicles), £15m on catering (including detainee and operational feeding), £13m on crime exhibit storage/uniforms and £6m on vehicle recovery and forensic examination.

Additionally, we spend £30m on training including all new recruit, specials and PCSO training. Of the 2,500 employed, 688 (including 47 officers) are employed in HR. And a total of 318 officers work in training. The rest are, as indicated above, in the logistics part of my department.

Our spend on "regular" HR is £58m, a 1:100 HR/staff ratio. Perhaps our offence is not separating these costs in our public documents so as to enable easier comparison.

Martin Tiplady

Director of Human Resources,

Metropolitan Police Service,

London SW1

Wonderful UK holidays

Susie Rushton must have had her tongue firmly in cheek when she wrote "the dull truth about holidays at home", (Notebook, 15 July). She doesn't describe the UK that I know and love: the wonderful highlands of Scotland; beautiful Lake district; tranquil canal system; rugged Cornish coastline; inspiring Eden project... I could go on. All fantastic and varied places, right on our own doorstep to enjoy.

And with £1 currently worth about $1.53 or €1.19, money spent in the UK goes that much further too.

Susie's thoughts on flying read like a romantic novel. There's nothing remotely pleasant about flying these days, unless you travel first class. It's stress, stress, stress from the very first moment right to the end of journey. And heaven help you if you get delayed – remember the volcanic cloud – plus all the extra costs loaded on by the budget carriers that catch out the unwary.

Jonathan Wainwright

Ely, Cambridgeshire

Special schools vs mainstream

The discussion about special schools versus mainstream for children with special needs mirrors the situation where choice, when it exists, is usually between one or the other. It would be good to hear more about the flexible arrangements that are made in some places with children from local schools visiting special schools to join in activities such as art and music, or pupils from the special schools regularly visiting the mainstream.

Where special classes are part of local schools, it is easier to make opportunities for inclusion and it is also easier to provide support from professionals with the relevant training and experience.

Children with impairments are individuals whose needs vary according to age, stage of development and personality as well as the type and severity of their difficulties. A polarised debate about a polarised system cannot bring good answers for complex needs.

Susan Monson

Marlborough, Wiltshire

Hidden attractions

When it comes to concealed car-park attractions (Notes, 15 July), Charles Nevin might have included a very famous name north of the border. No less than John Knox lies in the lee of St Giles Cathedral, under what has probably become the most famous numbered parking space in the fair capital; indeed in all of Scotland. Japanese tourists can be observed looking under cars, apparently.

It seems generally agreed that Knox, typically more concerned with heavenly matters, would have approved of this unostentatious resting place for his earthly remains, under parking space 23.

Dr Noel Heather

Egham, Surrey

The 'big society'

I was a founder member of the SDP in 1981 and left when it merged with the Liberal Party. How can anyone who believes themselves to be a Social Democrat support this government?

It is persevering in systematically pushing back our welfare system, built over the past century, to pre-Victorian times. The latest proposals for the NHS are contrary to the pre-election pledge to maintain it at full strength.

The "big society" translates as you are on your own; do not expect any help from the government no matter how dire the circumstances. Margaret Thatcher must be green with envy at the opportunity the bankers have provided for "unavoidable" cuts.

R E Hooper



Bus-pass gift

We hear that the issuing of bus passes to the elderly costs the Treasury about £1bn per annum and that a reduction in this huge sum is being considered. Given that the marginal cost of a pensioner riding on a bus is vanishingly small and rarely necessitates extra buses, why not reduce or even remove the payments to the bus companies and make the continued provision of this service a condition of their licences? The £1bn is, in fact, a gift to bus company shareholders supplied at little extra operating cost.

Tim Brook


Perspectives on Raoul Moat

Cameron's callous view of sick man

David Cameron's comments in parliament concerning the sympathy shown to Raoul Moat on Facebook were ill-thought-out. Was this not the old knee-jerk right-wing Conservatism spewing out in full flood as he condemned Moat as a "callous killer"? This, even though all the evidence is now pointing towards these acts being done by a man who was extremely mentally ill and most probably suffering an intense paranoid episode.

I do not condone or excuse the killings, but I can understand a man who was severely mentally ill and had been crying for help before he embarked on the journey he took.

David Cameron's comments must have sent a chill down the spine of anyone who is suffering from a mental illness, and their relatives and carers.

I expected our new PM to be a man who would study all of a subject before making any comment on the issue, but he has shown that leopards do not change their spots, because he has reverted to type quickly, to look good in front of parliament.

John Hill

Crowthorne, Berkshire

Sympathy for the devil?

Mary Dejevsky ("Why this murderer matters", 17 July) assumes that since Moat "felt" let down he must have been let down. She fails to consider what part he played – a very large one – in "losing everything he valued".

She doesn't even consider whether it was reasonable of him to draw the conclusions he did. Clearly, it wasn't reasonable. He refused to take responsibility for his life. He felt harassed by the police. Tough. Persistent criminals do risk being arrested and charged. Next, he felt entitled to beat women, to shoot, kill and maim.

As for the rest of what she writes ("he was, yes, a killer but... I was rooting for him", "he didn't stand a chance"); she'd just better hope she never meets a "delightful renegade" who "cocks a snook at authority" by shooting or blinding her.

Cath Boylan

London NW3

A tragic figure

Raoul Moat was working class, inarticulate, obviously mentally unwell and needing urgent treatment that he requested and was denied. The Prime Minister and chattering classes call Moat scum and worse for killing his partner's new lover and have succeeded in censoring the internet views of those who think differently. The noble Othello killed his partner for the same reason and is seen as the tragic hero of a story of genius. I'm puzzled.

Bob Thompson

Wedmore, Somerset