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Student Loans Company Manager avoids Taxes

2nd February 2012

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UEA’s remarkable new nature trail shows a university capable of great preservation and diversity. Yet only last November the university diminished the variety of its academic programme, as council members announced the closure of the music school, taking affect once the current students have finished their degrees.

Tax cutsThe decision remains controversial, and students are yet to see whether it indicates a readiness to sacrifice the arts in favour of other subject fields. Suggestions of ideological cuts are ultimately speculation. What’s for certain is that UEA’S purse is getting lighter and lighter.

On Tuesday, UEA’s student newspaper, Concrete, revealed that last year the student union suffered a £198,449 deficit. In an attempt to reduce the deficit the union has proposed to stop funding an employed editor for Concrete.  I hope I don’t seem presumptuous in thinking that we agree on the necessity of an independent, well-financed press, for my real concern is how the editor’s salary is only a fractional crumb of Ed Lester’s.

Newsnight revealed that Mr Lester, the head of the Student Loans Company, receives a salary of £182,000 without tax reductions. Now, far be it for me to suggest Mr Lester shouldn’t try to squeeze every last penny into his bulging pocket. And who am I to suggest the coalition hasn’t quite met its agreement in making “every effort to tackle tax avoidance”? You could rightly argue that Mr Lester’s income taxes would hardly keep UEA’s music school open for business. After all, his tax exemptions only make him an estimated £40,000 better off...

It’s when earning just over half of Mr Lester’s pocket money (£21,000) that graduates must begin repaying their student loans. Given the state of graduate employment prospects, they may well have the last, however bitter, laugh.

The latest batch of students has seen a rise in the price of their degrees, but not in the quality or worth; in fact, the fine musicians at UEA feel short-changed. The coalition now has a chance to act on broken promises and preserve what remains of their reputation amongst students.

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