Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/328/9289
Socialist Party Wins Vote Opposing Fees on Coventry City Council
Coventry City Council now officially opposes top up fees thanks to a motion successfully moved by Socialist Party councillors Karen McKay, Rob Windsor and Dave Nellist on 16 December.
Rob Windsor sent us this report:
The council is under no overall control, with the independent and Liberal Groups having two councillors each. Very unusually, both they and the Tories supported the Socialist Party motion. This was the second vote that the Socialist Party won after earlier moving an amendment to temporarily halt cuts in Social Services in the city.
Despite colossal opposition and a developing revolt by New Labour MPs, Coventry's New Labour councillors tried in vain to defend the indefensible.
Councillor Karen McKay moved the motion ramming home the consequences of the chronic debt that faces graduates, citing the recent poll in the Guardian showing 59% opposition to top up fees, and a letter in the same paper that day from amongst others, the Vice Chancellor of Coventry University, opposing top up fees.
Councillor Rob Windsor seconded the motion exposing the Governments so called relief scheme as a sham. Students whose parents' income is £30.000 or less will actually only get help with up to the first £1125 of fees and then help only on a sliding scale.
Rob reminded councillors that virtually all New Labour ministers had benefited from grant aided university education provided through taxation and that Blair's target of 50% going to university would never come to pass with young people becoming terrified of chronic debt thanks to fees.
Councillor Dave Nellist added that young people will face more than three mortgages if this becomes law, one for a house, one for debt accrued whilst in higher education and one through fees. It is also clear that if minimum top up fees become law now there will be lobbying by the wannabee "Ivy League" universities to hike them up later creating a two tier system of higher education.
New Labour's feeble defence was an amendment calling on us to remove the reference to opposing top-up fees in exchange for talk of support for a debate on the issue. They said that they wanted cash to be used in Primary and Tertiary Education as a priority, but Dave Nellist pointed out that if this was the case they are likely to be arguing for fees and charges in these areas next.
Labour's amendment was voted down and the Socialist Party motion adopted. Naturally the Tories are not being honest in their opposition. It was they who introduced student loans and contributed to undefunding in higher education and no doubt they too would have considered fees had they been in Government.
Nevertheless New Labour's defeat will encourage greater opposition and put more pressure on the city's three New Labour MP's to oppose fees in Parliament.
The pressure on this issue is being built and strengthened by International Socialist Resistance and the Socialist Party who spent the days before the debate building support in both local universities and three secondary schools.
Socialist Councillors will now demand that the council acts on its new position and will use this victory in the council chamber to help ensure that top up fees are defeated. Both by continuing to put on pressure inside the council, but more importantly to build a bigger campaign amongst students, Trades Unions and local communities outside as well. Councillors nationally as well as MPs should be lobbied to take the same position.
Socialist Party Motion
"This council opposes the Government's plan to introduce top-up fees for students in Higher Education and calls on the City's three local MP's to oppose the plan in Parliament, believing that the combination of tuition fees and student loans will increasingly prove to be a barrier to less well-off applicants, and mean that young people will start their adult lives with crippling levels of debt".
Passed 29 votes to 21 on a named vote
In The Socialist 20 December 2003: