Balls denies rift over fees policy

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Published: Wednesday 25th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Ed Balls has denied having a “big bust-up” with Labour leader Ed Miliband over the party’s tuition fees policy, which is expected to finally be announced this week.

The shadow chancellor stressed that his job was to make sure “the sums add up” following reports of a rift within the party’s leadership over how any cut in fees would be paid for.

Mr Balls said both he and Mr Miliband agreed on the need for a “fairer system” of student finance such as a graduate tax in the long-term.

Labour has previously advocated cutting tuition fees in England from £9,000 to £6,000, although the party has stressed that was a suggestion of what the Government could have done at the time rather than a commitment for the future.

Mr Balls told LBC Radio: “The thing is, the current system of student finance is not working for students who are paying more and for the taxpayer, which has got a massive, growing burden of debt because of this failed policy.”

“In the next few days we will set out, clearly, our policy and I think … if you are a student you will like it.”

At the weekend, shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna acknowledged the process to agree the policy had been difficult partly because the Opposition is “determined not to repeat the mistake of Nick Clegg” and make a promise in their manifesto which they cannot keep.

Mr Balls said: “We haven’t made any announcement on anything about fee cuts. We will make our announcement in the next few days. My job is to make sure, not only that the policy is fair and long-term is going to work, but also that the sums add up.

“I’ve been really clear that anything we announce in any policy area has got to be costed and paid for and the sums have got to add up, and that is true in this policy area as in every other one.”

The shadow chancellor, who stood against Mr Miliband for the party leadership, said they had both advocated a graduate tax.

” In the Labour leadership election, much to my annoyance, he wrote an article advocating a graduate tax before me,” Mr Balls said.

“He is and me and both me and him have both said that, for the long term, we would like to have a fairer system of graduate repayment – you could call that a graduate tax.

“But we will announce our policy in the next few days.”

He rejected a report that a meeting to work out the details of the policy last week had “ended badly”, stating “it’s not only untrue, it’s a lie”.

Mr Balls said: “There was a meeting and it ended extremely well because we were working out the details of an announcement we shall make in the next few days and actually there has no big bust-up on these issues.”

Published: Wednesday 25th February 2015 by The News Editor

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