MP Julian Huppert has tackled the Prime Minister over VAT bills for sixth form colleges which leaves them out of pocket by hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.
And he received assurances from David Cameron that he will look at the tax on learning which discriminates between sixth form colleges and sixth forms attached to schools and academies.
Julian told David Cameron that sixth form colleges such as the city’s Hills Road and Long Road are struggling to get by because they are forced to pay VAT of more than £300,000 each. But by contrast, school and academy sixth forms can claim back from the Treasury the VAT they pay on goods and services.
Mr Cameron admitted that it was important to make sure that schools and colleges were treated fairly.
Julian raised the issue at Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons yesterday (Wednesday, February 11) saying that Hills Road and Long Road Sixth Form Colleges “do an excellent job in educating our young people”. And he added: “Will the Prime Minister listen to voices across this House and scrap this tax on learning?”
Mr Cameron agreed to look carefully at the issue saying: “I know it is important that we treat educational institutions fairly, and we all want to see the continued and growing success of our colleges.”
Julian, a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Sixth Form Colleges said: “There is huge concern across the country about this unfair tax which is taking valuable resources away from students. The Prime Minister has acknowledged that we need to treat our schools and colleges equally and yet this situation still exists.
“I hope we will now see action taken to rectify this issue so that excellent colleges like Hills Road and Long Road are no longer penalised simply because of their status as stand- alone sixth forms.”
Julian’s fight to get a fairer deal for the city’s sixth form colleges has won praise from both colleges.
Christine Sherwin, the Principal of Long Road Sixth Form College said: “Thanks to Julian from the staff, students and governors of Long Road Sixth Form College for supporting our campaign to get the Learning Tax dropped.
“We regard paying VAT as a tax on learning. It costs us over £300,000 a year that should be spent on our students’ education. Julian’s ongoing support, including bringing attention to this unfair situation at Prime Minister’s Question Time, is very much appreciated. “
And Linda Sinclair, the Principal of Hills Road Sixth Form College said that VAT costs the school around £300,000 a year.
“This is a significant burden to bear while, at the same time, having to manage severe funding cuts to the 16-19 education budget,” she said. “It is time to end this inequitable treatment of sixth form college students.
“We are grateful to Julian Huppert for persistently pursuing this issue and for supporting the sixth form colleges’ national campaign for fair funding.”
Recently Julian brought Business Secretary, Vince Cable to Cambridge’s Long Road Sixth Form College to find out for himself the impact of the government’s VAT policy.
And this week he added his signature to a letter to Education Minister, Nicky Morgan calling for the rules to be changed.