Saturday, October 23, 2004

Members allowances and Keith Vaz

The release of members expenses has provoked a fair amount of media coverage, but interestingly, when searching Keith Vaz, most of it comes from Indian press.

Those that aren't include UK's costliest MP says she is worth every penny, The Guardian. Includes a nice breakdown of costs by party. And MPs hit taxpayers' pockets with £209m expenses claim, The Independent.

You can download all the information from the UK Parliament site, there are links to it on the front page. They have them up for the past three years, using Acrobat. I have to admit that when I scrolled through yesterday it was obvious that Mr Keith was pulling in quite a lot of money but I was not prepared for his being runner up, claiming the the coveted and hard fought position of 2nd most costly MP.

Evidently a big writer let's hope that Mr Vaz can up his game for next year's results. I'll be interested to see more coverage of this, especially from our very own Leicester Mercury, I'm sure they're very excited.

Is he doing 164 thousand pounds of work?

Friday, October 01, 2004

Education matters and late student loans

Dug up some questions from a few weeks ago, relating to education.

Mr Vaz asked about evidence of improvement among pupils and students, with a breakdown by ethnicity. Read here from They Work For You. And about steps taken to help underachieving students. Here. The first is interesting for its stats of GCSE and degree results by ethnicity. Aware that pupils of an Indian background have been consistently outperforming white pupils for years the stats on good degrees come as a little of a shock, with the achievement in GCSEs not really being reflected.

Oh, and speaking of university...

Don't Bank On It, from The Guardian. Problems in the student loans application system mean regular payments for up to 25,000 students are unlikely to be waiting for them when they start term.

Don't be fooled by the rather optimistic tone of the article. It is happening, it is a serious problem for thousands of students who have already started their university terms and thousands who are shortly about to. Students who submitted all the appropriate paperwork by the deadlines are left stranded with no money for rent, fees, food, books - a week or more in to term time.

Local Education Authorities are constantly engaged, Student Finance Direct haven't been picking up the phone for weeks. Internal computer systems aren't working, and despite triumphant letters to students encouraging them to check the progress of their claim online that doesn't work either.

Mr Vaz voted for the higher education bill and has been a consistent supporter of his party on that subject. Voting Record from the Public Whip.

The NUS website is currently mostly under construction, but is looking very handsome indeed. You can still read some press releases and articles, try Higher Education Bill "a disaster for the future of HE" says NUS.

See the NUS backed and LibDem

If you are one of those students affected - and anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that Leicester is one of the LEA's quite badly off - it is very important that you speak to whoever you can about it. Go to your student advice centre, keep ringing the LEA, talk to your landlords and banks. Keep a record of who you talked to and when. Get in touch with the relevant NUS representative at your union - maybe the officer for student welfare or academic affairs. Write to your home MP and the MP / AM / MSP who represents you at your term time uni address. This should not be allowed to slip under the radar and the only way it won't is if we make a fuss.

Added: Computer Glitch Hits Student Loan Scheme and Loan Hotline Restricted. From the Leicester Mercury. First article still insists it is only late applications who are having trouble. And yes, cutting down the hotline times and leaving worried students unable to get in contact seems an excellent way of dealing with the problem. Perhaps if they had been sent letters - any letters - at any point over the summer and not been completely ignored then there wouldn't be such a problem now.

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