Gordon has slammed the Tory Government’s underhand tactics to scrap Maintenance Grants for students – a move that will have a devastating impact on students in Blackpool from low income families and other disadvantaged backgrounds.
The Blackpool South MP, who is also Labour’s Shadow Minister for Higher Education spoke at a “Third Delegated Legislation Committee”, where a small number of Tory MPs snuck through measures to remove the student grants and replace them with loans, without any debate or vote in the House of Commons on it.
During the 2013/14 academic year, 1, 527 students at Blackpool and Fylde College were supported by Higher Education grants and Gordon said the Government’s decision to now scrap them was ”not just simply a technical tinkering, but a major and an ill thought through change that will deprive many students in Blackpool from low income and disadvantaged backgrounds of maintenance grant funding”.
Speaking after today’s debate, he explained: “Over the last few years and especially under the last Labour Government, we saw a big increase in the number of people from Blackpool choosing to go University. Thousands benefitted from the Maintenance Grant – this was money that helped to pay for essential costs such as food, rent and equipment for studying.
“However under the Tories, whether it be removing NHS Bursaries, freezing the repayment threshold on student loans and now scrapping grants for disadvantaged students, we are going backwards.
“Removing these grants will make Higher Education unaffordable and disadvantage many students, and could see participation levels fall. This is just another disastrous measure from a Government, whose policies are damaging the life chances and aspirations of many people in Blackpool.”
Gordon added: “The Government have ducked and dived over this. This is too big a change to not be debated and voted on in the House of Commons. Instead they have decided to underhandedly sneak through a measure that will have a detrimental impact to thousands of young people. I and my Labour colleagues are not going to give up on this issue and we will continue to raise it by whatever means in Parliament.”
Last October, Josie Linsel, the President of UCLAN Student Union along with 17 other students from the University, all of whom live in Blackpool South, wrote to Gordon to express their “deep concern” to the axing of maintenance grants, citing the impact it will have on the “ambitions and choices of poorer students”.
The scrapping of grants, which is expected to hit half a million disadvantaged students nationwide, was also raised at yesterday’s Prime Ministers Questions with David Cameron being reminded that such a fundamental change did at no point appear in the Tory Party’s election manifesto.