Lib Dem council defy coalition in opposition to tuition fee rises

Nick Clegg yesterday faced a backlash in his Sheffield constituency, as the Lib Dem leader of the city council publicly opposed increases in tuition fees.

Cllr Paul Scriven, leader of the council, said “Sheffield is home to thousands of students and families who might be thinking of sending their children to university in the future. I’ve made my position clear; I don’t want to see students saddled with unbearable levels of debt. Therefore we oppose any increase to tuition fees.

“We may be in coalition in Westminster but we’re not in coalition in Sheffield and as Liberal Democrats we will continue to voice our opposition to measures with which we disagree.”

Cllr Scriven also ruled out Labour’s favoured policy of a graduate tax, calling it “unfair”.

A government review, led by former BP chief executive Lord Browne, recommended removing the cap on student fees, allowing universities to set their own rates.

But Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and MP for Sheffield Hallam, said earlier this week that the coalition were considering keeping an increased cap. “I am uneasy about the idea that you, in theory, have unlimited fees,” he said. “So we are looking at something which would be more restrained.”

Business secretary Vince Cable said last week that he was considering a cap of around £7,000 per year. Currently undergraduate students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland pay a maximum of £3,290 per year.

Cllr Scriven will put forward a motion opposing the proposed rise at next week’s meeting of the full council.

Both Clegg and Cable, who delivered the Browne review to the House of Commons pledged to vote against rises in tuition fees before May’s general election.

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3 responses to “Lib Dem council defy coalition in opposition to tuition fee rises

  1. What a spectacularly meaningless, empty gesture.
    So the Lib Dem councillors in Sheffield oppose tuition fee rises, while the Lib Dem MPs (including a Sheffield MP) enable them?

    Can a Sheffield student send back his or her demand for thousands of pounds in tuition fees and say, “But Paul Scriven says the council are opposed to tuition fee rises”?

    I’d say that gestures like this mean that Lib Dems should clearly set out where they stand on key issues like tuition fees prior to the next election, but as the picture above illustrates, they tried that last time and it didn’t stop them backtracking once they got a whiff of ministerial responsibility.

    At the gestures made in Sheffield Town Hall in the 1980s (Nuclear Free Zone anyone?) made sense as party that ran the Town Hall wasn’t also propping up a minority administration in Westminster.

  2. Would it be terribly crass of me to point out that the Lib Dam MPs are safe in their jobs until May 2015, whereas Sheffield Lib Dem Councillors have an election due in less than 6 months? Maybe this would explain Mr Scrivens very sudden “split” from his national party leader?

  3. Pingback: SheffieldPolitics Review of the Year: 2010 |

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