No budget for the young


With young voters flocking to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour in the last General Election you’d think the Tories would have wanted to use this week’s budget as an opportunity to win back some lost ground. 

But, as one disaster follows another, May and Hammond are just as desperate to shore up their existing support and so, unless you are London based, in a ‘career’ job and with parents able to stump up a large slice of a deposit (by itself, the change to stamp duty does nothing to improve a person’s ability to save) for a bargain £300 000 first-time buy,  there’s nothing that can  remotely help you refill the fridge, never mind pay off the overdraft.

The £350 increase in the level we now start paying income tax – worth about £70 a year, will certainly exempt a fair few from tax altogether, yet if full-time students in part-time jobs are excluded, only half of 18-24-year olds are in the labour market.

By comparison, there’s been a £1350 increase in the 40% income tax ceiling (it’s now £46,350). There’s no further moves on student tuition fees (May has previously announced an increase in the repayment threshold and Parliament voted down new fee increases) and no direct reference to the need to rescue apprenticeships.

While recent developments have shown that increasing spending on education and training won’t necessarily lead to better employment outcomes; some schools will welcome the increased financial incentives for increasing the number of students taking Maths beyond GCSE. But even here, the amount is modest (£600 a student) and many employer representatives now argue that it would be better to have a broader post-16 curriculum rather than the current specialist one.

Young people have been affected the most from the fall in living standards since the economic downturn and approaching a third are estimated to be living in poverty. Labour will want to put their interests at the top of its agenda.


Young voters flock to Labour

Recently released data from the polling organisation YouGov shows the800_cp_montreal_student_protest_120223  extent of young people’s willingness to back Labour in the recent General Election, with the party enjoying over three times as much support from 18-24-year-old voters as the Conservatives – amongst 18 and 19 year olds, support was even stronger with 66% opting for Labour compared with just 19% for the Tories.

According to YouGov, 64% of students voted for Labour compared to just 19% for the Conservatives. This was a clear reflection of Labour’s manifesto commitment to end university tuition  fees  – the average amount of debt acquired per student has now reached more than £32,000 with a third of students  considering their courses did not provide value for money (Guardian 08/06/17)  Labour also pledged to restore Education Maintenance Allowances (EMAs) for post-16 students, to make Further Education courses free and to upgrade the quality of vocational education and apprenticeships.

At the other end of the age group, things could not have been more different, as almost 70% of 70 year olds voted Conservative and 58% of those between 60-69.  Participation levels were also much higher amongst older age groups, with 57% of 18-19 year olds turning out, compared to 84% of those 70 plus. YouGov also found that differences in the way various occupational classes voted were becoming much less significant and the tendency to vote Conservative declined as educational levels increased –with Labour enjoying a 15 % lead amongst graduates.

Young people’s support for Labour was not just the result of its policies or the popularity of Jeremy Corbyn – the party was far ahead of the Tories in its ability to use social media, so as to help neutralise the attacks on Corbyn by the official media. It was also the result of major efforts by student unions to increase registration, handing in hundreds of registration forms from their members just hours before the deadline.

With a highly volatile electorate, Labour will not take this support for granted and with dreadful employment prospects for young people  –even for those with degrees – it will need to develop clear policies that address job market insecurities, as well as continuing to improve educational opportunity. Nevertheless, the YouGov data provides many positives.