And Tristram Hunt can kiss my hairy freckled arse

Private schools would be stripped of £700 million in tax breaks if Labour is elected, under plans being drawn up by Ed Miliband.

The “class war” proposal could add up to £200 a year to the cost of a private school education.

Tristram Hunt, the shadow Education Secretary, is expected to outline plans to “claw back” relief given to private schools from paying local authority business rates.

More than 2,000 private schools across Britain can claim up to 80 per cent cut in their business rates because they are charities, worth around £150 million annually.

Mr Hunt will say that a Labour government will legislate to ensure the schools only qualify for this “subsidy” if they pass a new “schools partnership standard”.

Sigh. They’re charities. So, they should get the same breaks (and face the same costs) as other charities. Providing education is, and has always been seen as, a justifiably charitable endeavour.

And I’d also advise being very, very, careful about how you define “school” or “education” in this sense. For I’m absolutely certain that there’s all sorts of charities out there providing some educational benefits that you don’t want to subject to this taxation because they’re run by your supporters.

But the real problem here is that it’s a gross misunderstanding of what the charitable sector is all about. This is an areas supposed to be outside such detailed and direct governmental control.
Charity is about the things the little platoons do for the little platoons. Civil society: not politically directed centralised society. Government is and should be limited to setting the general rules. You’re a charity? Here are the rules. The same rules apply whether you’re a Labour Party front organisation, a donkey sanctuary or a school.

So here, here is that hairy freckled arse: pucker up matey and then you can fuck right off.

35 thoughts on “And Tristram Hunt can kiss my hairy freckled arse”

  1. Ritchie once bemoaned the £s that the charity status of private schools “cost” the state. When I pointed out to him this was a fraction of the cost it would be to the state to pay for the same number of children to go through state school he just said “enternalities” and deleted my further posts.

    This of course being Ritchie, who like most of those on the left who are against non-state education, went to a grammar school.

  2. Hunt the (Sh)unt careers from one car-crash interview to another!

    Today he’s arguing that private education is somehow “subsidised”. OK, he’s an historian not an economist but I’m sure Niall Ferguson knows the difference. How much would it cost taxpayers to educate all those kids currently in private schools? Rather more than the tax benefits of charitable status I’d wager.

    I pay my tax, I pay my kids’ school fees, I make donations to the schools’ bursary funds … and now I’m meant to pay a fourth time for private schools to prop up failing state schools.

    WTF!

  3. The problem is that private schools cater only to the wealthy and aren’t inclusive enough, right? So let’s put the price up.

    Aye, that’ll work. This will clobber the most ordinary kids in the school whose middle class parents find private schooling on the margin of affordability (like me: I went to boarding school primarily because my father worked away and my mother was too ill to look after me, and in fact died when I was in school). It won’t affect the genuine toffs or the offspring of Russian oligarchs.

  4. Good luck trying to defend this one – the charitable status of most of these schools is an anachronism dating back to the days before state provision of education. These days the only “charitable” activity they undertake is a limited (and grudging) provision of scholarships to a few kids who would otherwise not be able to afford the fees. Want to take bets on how many of those scholarships go to the poor, rather than to the not quite so well off middle-classes?

  5. I think said private schools need to consider becoming companies rather than charities, however difficult this may be. The Left may have comprehensively failed to run education, but such a record doesn’t mean they won’t keep trying exactly the same “solutions” and lashing out at everyone else who proves them wrong.

    In fact, I think we should abandon charitable status, full stop. It was fatally devalued when Labour decided to let them do political campaigning, and frankly, it’s easy enough to avoid tax: just give away the profit. In the meantime, the state is removed from regulation of said charities.

  6. I remember reading somewhere state school costs the state £9k/year/kid. A sensible government would be doing all it could to encourage parents to privately educate their kids.

  7. Bloke in Oxford

    Don’t you get it? We have World economy struggling, a European economy in an appalling state, a huge structural fiscal deficit with public debt moving towards tipping point, a growing inter-generational crisis with 20-somethings being condemned to a lifetime of poverty, fuelled by a rediculous housing shortage caused by lunatic planning laws. To cap it we have a disasterous education system with heroes like Michael Gove fighting a deperate rearguard action against the Blob.
    And who have Labour identified as the probelm? The bringer of all evil to our shores? You Mate, you, you, YOU.
    Yes, yesterday it was the bankers, the day before the power companies, the day before rich foreigners…and today it’s your turn. Who the fuck needs to do the crunchy analysis and look for the hard solutions, or speak honestly to the electorate when we can always find a new ready-made pantomime villain.

    Thought you were doing the right thing? Just getting on with your life quietly were you? Obeying all the laws of the land were you? Well fuck off, today you’re officially EVIL.

  8. I think I’m with Rupert Fiennes. At the very least, stop the rates exemption to all charities.. the real effects of that are seen up and down all of our lesser high streets where increasingly sketchy-looking ‘charity shops’ are taking over. The exception is just a subsidy to landlords who won’t drop their rents properly.

    Exempting non-profit-making orgs from corporation tax is probably fair enough, but it’s not as if the charity sector isn’t now taking epic sums of government money (albeit mainly to a select band of suitably-connected charities). The whole business looks increasingly rotten. In a world of multi-national super-corp charities, and naked lobby groups (oh, and some real charities that actually raise real funds and do real work.. whoever they are) are private schools really top of anyone’s hit list? After all, they do have a clear purpose which they perform exceedingly well, and the net win to the treasury is overwhelming.

  9. Chris Blackburn – why does something that is a charitable activity stop being so when the state starts providing some of it?

    By that argument we shouldn’t give charitable status to organisations that campaign on environmental issues or fund research into cancer cures.

  10. TTG

    “The whole business looks increasingly rotten. In a world of multi-national super-corp charities, and naked lobby groups (oh, and some real charities that actually raise real funds and do real work.. whoever they are)”

    There used to be a website “http://fakecharities.org/” which highlighted all of those that took donations / grants (from government / others) and then used those grants to lobby on behalf of the donors’ causes (eg, political, eco, health etc). The site looks to have been taken down.

    When I went through it, I remember it covered the vast majority of the large recognised charities, one notable exception (at the time) being the RNLI.

  11. Tim Newman: It won’t affect the genuine toffs

    It rather sounds as though you would quite like it to, however.

    Chris Blackburn: the charitable status of most of these schools is an anachronism dating back to the days before state provision of education

    I’m not convinced that that’s an argument for anything at all. Certainly many schools were established as charitable foundations with endowments but what of it? The same is true of many universities and colleges.

    This is token politics, not designed to raise revenue but to garner votes from haters of “toffs” and “quasi-toffs” while hoping they will please to overlook that this category includes two or three generations of Labour’s nomenklatura.

  12. And here we may see the law of unintended consequences.

    Every private school is different, and some will undoubtedly tot up the cost of their bursaries, scholarships and ‘outreach’ work and compare that to their potential business rates hit…

    … and then say, ‘sod it, we’ll just scrap the stuff that helps the less well off and pull up the drawbridge’ and the silence that follows will only be broken by the slow hand claps for the spiteful class warriors of the Labour Party.

  13. Just get rid of tax breaks for all charities, abolish the charities commission and reduce tax rates and/or increase thresholds.

  14. bloke (not) in spain

    Sorry. Maybe it’s not being the “beneficiary” of a private education but I can’t see why private schools are in any way charities. Maybe there once was an argument they provided education where education wasn’t available. But the State education for all system took care of that. It’s now just a private sector alternative to the public provision. I don’t expect tax breaks on my car because i don’t like buses.
    OK Some parent’s employment raises problems with educating their children. Tough. That should be between them & their employers. It’s not as if either are usually exactly on their uppers, is it?
    I would, however, be in favour of an education voucher, available to all, to be used in whichever education system the parents favoured.
    Like a couple of other commentators, i reckon this whole charity business is mostly a business & has got out of hand. Since I’ve been back on this septic isle & resident in the family hovel I’m struck by the pile of dunning mail arrives on the mat every day. Suppose it’s a product of the parents’ having been caring in a few directions & their details having been passed around. Look. If you’ve got a thing about birds, Borneo or bum cancer good on you. Do your thing. But why expect to be treated differently from those who prefer birds, bacon sanwiches & beer?

  15. Bloke in Germany in Hong Kong

    @TTG,

    UK non-profits (companies limited by guarantee at least) are not exempted from corporation tax, only charities are.

  16. @ Tom J

    Indeed. MSF has been my charity of choice for some years, and this is part of the reason.

    @ BiGiHK

    Plus whatever wheeze it is that the Unions are pulling (which is, of course, entirely within the letter and the spirit of the law). I’m not sure if other non-profits can make use of that?

  17. Ah, Tristram. Goes to show that only a proper toff can start a class war.

    What other sector are you thinking of putting the kibosh on? After successful export industries such as finance and education, perhaps you should consider pop music and the soccer premier league. (Hmmm, too downmarket for you, I suspect.) So what about hobbling big pharma, defence, tourism, law?

  18. It rather sounds as though you would quite like it to, however.

    Nah, not me. Upper class twits are upper class twits, but I have no problem with them at all, and certainly no desire to see the laws changed in order to hound them.

  19. Wasn’t there another upper class, privately educated labour wanker who wanted to do the same thing forty years ago? Crossland, wasn’t it?

  20. @PF:

    I know a family who have a long and proud history of volunteering for the RNLI. Of the current generation two are crew (at different stations) whilst their spouses do huge amounts of fundraising. Similar story in previous generations.

    To a man, they have all said they would leave if government got involved.

    After getting to know the family, hearing their stories and the history of the RNLI I always put money in any lifeboat collection tin I see. Genuine heroes, every last one.

  21. @ b(n)is
    As a scholarship boy (and son of a scholarship boy who wasn’t rich enough to pay the full fees for) I obviously have a different perspective. But my school gave means-tested bursaries, worth vastly more than the Open Scholarships, to local boys: the only boy to beat me for a form prize in my entire school career in three schools did not bother to enter for an Open Scholarship because the means-tested bursary he got was worth much more than the top Open Scholarship (won by an even cleverer boy who went immediately into the ‘O’ level year at 13). In some cases these bursaries covered not just education but also some (sometimes nearly all) of living costs.
    So I just have to say that you are inadequately informed.
    Most ancient schools were founded as charities, with fee-paying pupils a later addition.Even Eton ranks fee-paying pupils below scholars. When I was a kid, the two memorable items in school legends were that (i) Trinity Cambridge did no interviews for maths Scholars so you could read Maths at Trinity even if you were mad and all the best mathematicians went to Trinity (unless you had a serious Oxford bias, so Sir Andrew Wiles went to Merton College, Oxford, as an undergraduate and then to Trinity as a post-grad before returning to Merton) and that Scholars at Winchester College were the the most brilliant and were exempted from games. [I liked games and my parents went to Oxford, so not applicable but the most comparable boy at prep school did go to Trinity (bloody hell, that sounds horribly conceited – he was clearly cleverer than I and he only got an Exhibition, not a Scholarship, so: no: I am not in the Andrew Wilkes class or even the class below him, just the class below that)]
    State education for all makes generous provision for those with learning difficulties but *not* for those with exceptional abilities. Music schools should *not* be an option only for children of the rich.

  22. Hang on a moment there… 700 million?

    Firstly, that sounds like a ridiculously large number. 700M divided by the 200 per pupil per year stated is 3.5 million, so there’s some bollocks being spouted.

    According to here: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/schools-pupils-and-their-characteristics-january-2014

    …there are in 2014 578,975 pupils in independent education.

    So let’s crunch some numbers. The supposed “subsidy” is £1209 per pupil. Which seems a bit ridiculous…

    In any case, this is a small amount compared to the cost to the taxpayer to educate in the state system.

    As always here, we have people looking at one figure out of its environment, and not looking at the total picture. Which is something both the Daily Mail and the Groaniad are both eminently capable of (and always comes up when I discuss the realities of living in Switzerland).

  23. So Much for Subtlety

    bloke (not) in spain – “Maybe there once was an argument they provided education where education wasn’t available. But the State education for all system took care of that.”

    Except the State education system has failed. The only schools that are capable of turning out literate students are in the Church and private sectors. We depend on these schools for virtually everyone who needs to be able to read and write.

    “It’s now just a private sector alternative to the public provision. I don’t expect tax breaks on my car because i don’t like buses.”

    No but your car imposes a cost on the rest of us. More traffic and pollution. So it is sensible to subsidise buses. The more people use buses, the clearer the roads are. In exactly the same way, private education reduces costs on the rest of us. It reduces the number of children at state schools. As long as the tax break is less than the cost of educating a child in the state sector – and some London schools are more expensive than Eton – it makes sensible to subsidise them.

  24. +1 SMFS

    it makes you despair of how the “teaching profession” works when the fee-paying schoolxsso easily out-perform them on scales devised by the state (apart from the school where DBC Reed works)

  25. They’re not charities, it’s nonsense to suggest they are. At the top end of the spectrum, the vast majority of their pupils are from families that have no need to benefit from any financial tweaking, and why are we also granting tax breaks to schools that educate rich foreigners?

    They should be forced to offer means tested scholarships to bright, less well off children and allow greater access to their sports facilities, or lose their tax status. They might be non-profits, but they are not charities

  26. @Martin, aah, if that’s the case it’s £240 per head per year.

    Or peanuts.

    Thus there would be a very high probability that for such a small sum the schools will say “F*ck you and the socially-engineered buggy you rode in on” and go limited company.

    Law of unintended consequences and all that.

    @Gutbucket – is educating the sons of officers killed on active service (my school’s foundation) not a charitable aim? The fee paying students provide the money to do this.

  27. So Much for Subtlety

    Gutbucket – “They’re not charities, it’s nonsense to suggest they are. At the top end of the spectrum, the vast majority of their pupils are from families that have no need to benefit from any financial tweaking, and why are we also granting tax breaks to schools that educate rich foreigners?”

    I am sorry but are you saying that a charity cannot be a charity if it deals with the wealthy? The Red Cross is only charitable if it gives blood to poor people, not to toffs? Oxfam should be stripped of its charitable status if it turns out its volunteers and donatees are all Upper Middle Class? What?

    “They should be forced to offer means tested scholarships to bright, less well off children and allow greater access to their sports facilities, or lose their tax status.”

    Umm, they did that:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assisted_Places_Scheme

    What happened to that scheme?

  28. His old headmaster isn’t that impressed with him either!

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/head-of-tristram-hunts-old-school-accuses-him-of-offensive-bigotry-9882825.html

    Mr Beard said stripping independent schools of tax exemptions “removes any pretence of encouraging those schools to play their part in society: instead they could charge whatever they wished, not bother about bursaries, not worry about pupil diversity and not share their facilities with the local community”.

  29. @ Gotbucket
    Royal Masonic School is a charity as it (at least it did in my youth) only educates orphans and charges no fees.

  30. abacab and john77: in the first case, in reality, it does not seem to me to be the primary purpose of that charity to educate servicemen’s children: it is to provide a paid-for education for others and, incidentally, we might let a few army kids in for free.

    If the Royal Masonic School charges no fees, it plainly is a charity. But what we have here is a large number of schools who exist to educate the better off – domestic and foreign, and why would we grant a tax exemption to an organization to enable them to subsidise the education of rich foreigners? Make them kick the foreigners out, and educate poor domestic pupils, to get the exemption.

    The likes of Eton and Winchester, of course, could pretty much charge what they want and would be able to survive without the charitable status.

  31. @John77
    “and that Scholars at Winchester College were the the most brilliant”
    I wouldn’t disagree with that comment

    “and were exempted from games”
    Not in my time as a Winchester scholar in the 1970s. PE was obligatory in the first 2 years and thereafter, although there was no particular obligatory sport, those who didn’t participate in one of the many sports available were gently “encouraged” to do so.

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