Labour’s plan for public schools is controversial; here’s why

Eton: it’s just a school. Why should it have charitable status or VAT exemptions to make the £50,000-per-year tuition fees go even further than they already do?

On one hand, it’s just another broken Keir Starmer promise.

But it seems to have created a lot more heat than might be expected.

Here’s what’s going on:

Labour has dropped plans to end charitable status for private schools but says it will still remove other tax breaks if it wins the next general election.

The status exempts some private schools in England and Wales from taxes.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had previously said charitable status for private schools could not be justified.

The party now says it can remove “unfair tax breaks” without changing the rules on charitable status.

There are about 2,500 private schools in England and Wales and the government says half are registered as charities.

Having charitable status means schools can not operate for a profit and are eligible to claim some tax exemptions, for example, on donations and business rates.

Since 2006, private schools have had to demonstrate they were creating “public benefit” to maintain their charitable status.

Labour says it would charge private schools 20% VAT, as well as ending business rates relief, to raise an estimated £1.7bn.

It’s the last bit that is causing trouble among some commentators, it seems.

Labour is saying its plan was always to remove tax breaks that the party seems to believe give private schools an advantage over state-run schools.

In fact, education in the UK is a mess – due in part to the encroachment of privatisation into the state sector, with privately-run academies whose owners seem to collapse with alarming regularity, only to be replaced with more doomed privateers.

A few decades ago, some corner-cutting government (does it matter whether it was Labour or Tory?) decided to build new schools using RAAC concrete, and now those buildings are falling down. This does not improve the state of, well, state education either.

Meanwhile, on the private side, we have seen schools like Eton unleash one dunce after another into the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties. Boris Johnson is living proof that an Eton education is not the gold standard it once was.

But the “Old School Tie” network means these numbskulls can climb the slippery pole to success with much less effort than the rest of us, despite being far less deserving of it.

Result: well, you can see it all around you. The UK is on the brink of collapse.

The fact is that neither Labour nor the Tories have anything like a decent grip on what needs to be done.

So they argue about side issues like VAT as if they matter, and then fall to personal insults:

Time to let somebody else make an educated guess at how to solve this?

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