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Session 2005 - 06
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Supplement to the House of Commons Votes and Proceedings
7 July 2006


Observations by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on the Petition [21st June] from the Isitfair Council Tax protest campaign for a fair and equitable replacement for council tax.

    Accepts that above inflation increases in Council Tax do cause hardship to those on fixed incomes for whom council tax absorbs significant amounts of disposable income, but supports responsible control of Local Authority Expenditure and reasonable Council Tax increases. Notes that Council Tax levels are decided by Local Authorities. The Government reserves the right to cap excessive increases.

    Notes that proposed revaluation of domestic properties in England has been postponed. Also notes that the Government has set up an Independent Inquiry, led by Sir Michael Lyons, to consider the detailed case for changes to the present system of funding local government, in the context of its wider role and functions, and to make recommendations on any changes that are necessary and how to implement them. As part of his inquiry, Sir Michael is looking at how best to reform council tax to make it fairer and more sustainable. Sir Michael is due to report by the end of this year.

    Sir Michael is aware of the sort of concerns that the IsItFair campaign and many others have expressed about how the current council tax system affects those on low and fixed incomes and the Government looks forward to receiving his recommendations.

    Requests that proposals for a workable fair local tax be forwarded and rejects the idea that local tax should be levied irrespective of wealth, including home ownership and supports a fair benefit system which takes into account both income and wealth.

3rd July 2006


Observations by the Secretary of State for Education and Skills on the Petition [23rd May] from students of the University of Oxford against rising accommodation costs.

    The Department for Education and Skills has no direct role in the provision of student residential accommodation, nor do we specifically fund universities to provide such accommodation. Universities are under no obligation to provide such accommodation and as autonomous, independent bodies, what they do provide, how it is allocated, and what they charge for it, is entirely a matter for institutions themselves.

    Our interests are that students should be able to secure safe accommodation whilst at university, regardless of who provides it. We work in partnership with other Government departments, such as the Department for Communities and Local Government, and the higher education sector to ensure that issues around safety are addressed.

    Students are able to apply for a student loan towards their living costs, 75% of which is not subject to income assessment. The Department was aware last year that there had been some criticism that the loan rates were not enough to cover students' costs. Accordingly, when the maximum amounts of student loan were set for the 2006/07 academic year, they were not increased simply to take account of annual inflation, but were enhanced to match the median of students' basic living costs as established by the 2002/03 Student Income and Expenditure Survey.

    This means, for example, that:

    a student living away from home and studying in London will be eligible for a maximum loan of 6,170 for the 2006/07 academic year, rather than 5,305 if the loan had simply been increased to take account of inflation - a difference of 865; and

    a final year student living away from home and studying outside London will be eligible for a maximum loan of 4,080 in 2006/07, rather than 3,735 if the loan had simply been increased to take account of inflation - a difference of 345.

4th July 2006

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