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Westlake Legal Group > tax credits

Robert Halfon: Skills, social justice, standards, and support for teachers. A four-part manifesto for the new Prime Minister.

Robert Halfon is MP for Harlow, Chair of the Education Select Committee and President of Conservative Workers and Trade Unionists.

Whether it is Boris Johnson’s £4.6 billion earmarked for schools, or his pledge to boost funding for apprenticeships, education has received vital oxygen during this leadership contest.

The Education Select Committee’s upcoming report on school funding, which we will publish later this week, supports the logic of these pledges – in particular, the need to support further education, which has for too long been considered the Cinderella sector.

But we must look beyond this. Education policy is an enormous montage of different worlds. In the months and years ahead, the new Prime Minister should collect these into one ambitious strategy. He can do this by focusing on the following four “S”s: skills, social justice, standards, and support for the profession.

First, skills.

Around nine million working aged adults in England have low literacy and/or numeracy skills. Many end up in low-skill, low-paid jobs – their life prospects dragged into the quicksand. And a third of England’s 16-19-year-olds have low basic skills.

We must urgently address this by building on the fine work of Damian Hinds and Anne Milton.

In particular, the new Conservative Government should build a world-class apprenticeship offer. It is vital to better understand what is driving the dramatic decline in Level 2 and Level 3 apprenticeships, and increasing FE funding is a necessity. We would be in a remarkable position if we were able to offer an apprenticeship to every single young person in our country who wanted one.

In terms of lifelong learning, we should build an adult community learning centre in every town, restructure existing employer tax reliefs so that they receive more generous relief when investing in low-skilled employees, and introduce a social justice tax credit, which would expand the number of employers who benefit from tax breaks when they invest in training for low-skilled workers in areas of skills needs.

The curriculum also needs reappraising to make sure our country is ready for the march of the robots. 28 per cent of jobs taken by 16-24-year-olds could be at risk of automation by the 2030s; many low-skilled jobs are at risk and even higher skilled jobs are not immune. Policy makers must consider what it means to develop the skills of the future, and how best to do this. There should be a Royal Commission, with the finest scientists, economists and academics in the land, looking at the effect that AI, automation, and robots will have on society, the economy and our education system, as well as how we should respond to these challenges.

Degree apprenticeships, the crown jewel in higher education, should be at the heart of our higher education offering. The Government must aim to have at least 50 per cent of students doing degree apprenticeships. They allow students to get good quality jobs and earn whilst they learn without a lead weight of £50,000 dragging from their feet.

It is time to reflect on what we consider to be an ‘elite university’. Do they just have good research rankings or are they institutions that deliver high graduate employment outcomes, meet our skills needs and address social disadvantage? We must better recognise the unsung heroes of higher education, like Portsmouth University which came top of The Economist’s “value-added” university rankings (this compares graduates’ wages with what they would have been expected to earn if they had not gone to that university), or Nottingham Trent which has exceptionally high numbers of disadvantaged students and incredibly high destination outcomes.

Second, social justice.

Currently, social injustice inhabits every part of our education system. Almost half of children eligible for free school meals are not ready for primary school. Disadvantaged children are 19 months behind by the time they do their GCSEs. Just 33 per cent of pupils on free school meals get five good GCSEs. And the most disadvantaged students are almost four times less likely to go to university than the most advantaged students.

Good schools are not just bastions of learning but also places of community. And yet schools in many deprived areas struggle to attract experienced teachers and leaders, who are so instrumental in driving up quality. Teachers in disadvantaged areas are also less likely to teach subjects in which they are qualified, and access to good initial teacher training varies by geography.

So how to dismantle these obstacles to learning? Social justice must be the beating heart of our education policy. A bold, assertive agenda that has compassion and aspiration right at its core.

The DfE should incentivise elite initial teacher training providers to set up shop in disadvantaged areas and support the subsequent development of local teachers. This might involve new funding, but they could also consider making use of existing funds – for example, we spend £72 million on opportunity areas, although we don’t really know exactly what impact they are having.

Disadvantaged pupils should also enjoy the benefits associated with our best private schools, including extensive social capital. I attended a private school and am a huge fan of their transformative potential. But, given the extensive charitable benefits that private schools get, they must do more to open their gates to acutely disadvantaged pupils. This could be done by better incentivising schools through the tax system.

Third, standards.

There is no doubt that education has improved in recent years. I have a great deal of admiration for the work the Government – and in particular, Nick Gibb – has done to improve standards.

The evidence is clear. The Government has furnished our children’s education with more rigour. The proportion of six year olds passing the phonics check increased from 58 per cent in 2012 to 82 per cent in 2018. We are stripping out qualifications that hold no real currency. Our Free Schools Programme continues to produce such gems as King’s College London Mathematics School. Since 2010, 1.8 million more pupils are in good or outstanding schools. And we have some of the finest universities in the world.

It is important to build on this and export rigour to every part of our education system and that includes technical education. The Government is starting to do this in its post-16 Skills Plan, which will produce a smaller number of T-Level qualifications that employers recognise and value. The next step is to make sure these new qualifications land safely.

The Free Schools Programme must emphasise community and not get subsumed into larger academies’ broader programmes. And we must apply the logic of high standards to non-mainstream alternative provision, where 1.1 per cent of pupils achieve five good GCSE passes and the supply of good schools is highly variable.

Finally, support for the profession.

It is vital that we support our teachers. We can build the best facilities in the world, but without their most precious element, they are just empty shells.

The education sector needs to continue to attract the brightest individuals. And the Government should support their professional development. We can learn lessons from countries that have a strong record in this area, such as Singapore, which gives classroom teachers more flexibility to hone their trade; places an unusually strong emphasis on peer support (around four fifths are either mentored or a mentor); and has a clearly defined ladder of career progression.

It is also important to make teachers’ lives easier. According to the OECD’s latest international survey, our teachers work more than they used to, and their working week is higher than average. Teachers also spend less time teaching than they did five years ago. Our next Prime Minister must free teachers from unnecessary bureaucracy, and give them more time to do what they do best: teach.

So to sum up.

Skills, social justice, standards, and support for the profession. These should be the four, interlocking foundations of the next Prime Minister’s education programme. Together, they allow those who cannot even see the ladder of opportunity to find it, and they give us all the chance to climb high and build prosperity.

Some of this can only be delivered with wisely targeted resources, but funding alone is not the answer. These four foundations are as much about ingenuity, creativity and resourcefulness, as they are about hard cash.

We have a unique chance to address the broad restlessness that exists in society. By extending the ladder of opportunity to those who currently lack it, and by nurturing our raw talents more generally, we can ensure the next generation climbs that ladder and gets the jobs, security, and prosperity that they, and our country, need. It is well within our ability to make sure this happens.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

NYT: Dem crony rewrote tax law in NJ to benefit clients — without registering as a lobbyist

Westlake Legal Group nyt-dem-crony-rewrote-tax-law-in-nj-to-benefit-clients-without-registering-as-a-lobbyist NYT: Dem crony rewrote tax law in NJ to benefit clients — without registering as a lobbyist The Blog tax credits New Jersey Chris Christie amazon Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Westlake Legal Group AOC-wave-1 NYT: Dem crony rewrote tax law in NJ to benefit clients — without registering as a lobbyist The Blog tax credits New Jersey Chris Christie amazon Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Second look at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? After at least cheerleading the collapse of a relocation deal with Amazon in New York City, critics on both sides of the aisle torpedoed the progressive super-heroine for not comprehending the difference between tax credits and tax revenues. As it turns out, politicians in New Jersey don’t care about the difference — especially when they outsource the legislation to a Democratic crony.

The New York Times explains how $11 billion in tax credits resulted in very little return to Garden State taxpayers:

It was called the Economic Opportunity Act, a measure intended to kick-start the sputtering post-recession economy in New Jersey, particularly in its struggling cities. The state would award lucrative tax breaks to businesses if they moved to New Jersey or remained in the state, creating and retaining jobs.

But before the bill was approved by the Legislature, a series of changes were made to its language in June 2013 that were intended to grant specific companies hundreds of millions of dollars in additional tax breaks, with no public disclosure, according to interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times.

Many of the last-minute changes to drafts of the bill were made by a real estate lawyer, Kevin D. Sheehan, whose influential law firm has close ties to Democratic politicians and legislative leaders in New Jersey.

Mr. Sheehan was allowed by lawmakers to edit drafts of the bill in ways that opened up sizable tax breaks to his firm’s clients, according to a marked up copy of the legislation obtained by The Times, which identifies Mr. Sheehan’s changes.

Nearly six years later, the fallout from the legislation has set off an uproar in the State Capitol over allegations that the state’s $11 billion in economic development programs have been poorly managed corporate giveaways that have brought few benefits to New Jersey.

It’s impossible to excerpt more from the article without violating Fair Use. Besides, this should be read in full. One extreme example from Sheehan’s changes is worth mentioning, however. Holtec International relocated its headquarters to Camden in order to take advantage of a Sheehan clause in the tax law and scored a cool $260 million in tax credits. Even at that time, the state estimated its benefit from the tax credits to be less than $156,000.

Not $156,000,000, which would still have been a loss. That was $156,000, which represents less than 6% of the tax credits Holtec scooped up, thanks to Sheehan’s contributions to the EOA.

The best part of this? Despite the firm’s connections to Democratic legislative leadership and the fact that Sheehan was drafting the changes, Sheehan never registered as a legislative lobbyist. He was literally writing the law, and yet the law firm insists that their work on the bill didn’t qualify as lobbying. And there’s still more! The brother of the firm’s CEO served in the state senate at the time and is in Congress now. Another brother — a major Democratic power broker — got a big benefit from the bill for his insurance business ($86 million), according to the NYT.

Who are these connected Dems? There’s plenty more to read here from Corasanti and Haag, so again, RTWT. Don’t miss that while Democrats may have created the issue, Republicans like Chris Christie haven’t been shy about cheering on the EOA and suggesting that fresh looks at it are politically motivated. It’s a reminder that not all concern over cronyism and fat-cat sweetheart deals involving tax credits are unrealistic, although it is helpful to know the difference between tax credits and tax revenue.

As for the second look at AOC, however, make sure not to take a second look at the comic-book version of … Nancy Pelosi?

The artists did do better in realistically portraying Dana Loesch, however. I think that’s Chris to the left of her in the panel.

The post NYT: Dem crony rewrote tax law in NJ to benefit clients — without registering as a lobbyist appeared first on Hot Air.

Westlake Legal Group AOC-wave-1-300x153 NYT: Dem crony rewrote tax law in NJ to benefit clients — without registering as a lobbyist The Blog tax credits New Jersey Chris Christie amazon Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez   Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Universal Credit. Noble aim, thorny problems. But if it’s to work properly, it must be paid for.

ConservativeHome spoke yesterday to Conservative MPs in marginal seats about Universal Credit.  One particularly switched-on Parliamentarian told us that food banks in his seat hate the new payment and that job coaches love it.  He said that the former claim that it pushes people into debt, homelessness and destitution.  And the latter counter that makes it easier for them to help benefit claimants move into work and get better-paid jobs.

Both perceptions can be true.  It was never going to be easy to make a major change to the system which is reliant on people reporting changes to their income in real time – and new computer systems to enable this to happen.  This helps to explain why Universal Credit, originally intended to be fully operational by 2017, will now not be so until 2023.  The payment poses particular challenges for claimaints migrating to it from what Ministers call the legacy system.  Last autumn, the Resolution Foundation calculated that 2.2 million families were expected to gain under the system and 3.2 million to lose, with single parents especially adversely affected.

The Government has chucked transitional relief at Universal Credit.  Ministers argue that claimants can take on more work to increase their income.  Philip Hammond announced more support and an increase in work allowances in last autums’s Budget.  But the bottom line is that too many people are being paid late: last summer, the National Audit Office said that it a fifth of those expecting their first full payment were in this position.

A Commons vote is due on transferring three million claimants from the old to the new system.  David Cameron had a small majority, but his Government was vulnerable to defeat on welfare-related and many other issues: remember George Osborne’s U-turn on planned changes to tax credits.  Theresa May has none at all.  A handful of backbench protesters could sink the change.  Amber Rudd thus had little alternative but to postpone the vote, and has duly done so.  She will now seek Parliamentary approval for a pilot scheme that transfers just 10,000 people from the old to the new system.

The operation of Universal Credit is complex, but the politics are simple – or straightforward, at any rate.  The Universal Credit system is the brainchild of Iain Duncan Smith’s work in opposition at the Centre for Social Justice.  It has a visionary aim: to roll six benefits into one, make the system more simple and flexible, and improve incentives to work.  Writing on this site last autumn, Alok Sharma, the Employment Minister, complained of the three cliff-edges in the legacy system that deter claimants from seeking work, and reported that 86 per cent of people on Universal Credit are actively looking to increase their hours, compared to just 35 per cent of people on Jobseekers Allowance.

If you are going to appoint Duncan Smith as Work and Pensions Secretary, as Cameron did in 2010, you cannot do so without allowing him to room to implement his scheme.  And if you are going to do so, it follows that the Treasury must take the funding consequences on the chin.  It didn’t.  Think back to that Osborne tax credits U-turn.  The reason for Duncan Smith’s resignation in 2016 was precisely that the then Chancellor was not prepared also to reverse planned savings to disability benefits (which in turn impacted upon Universal Credit).

Amber Rudd is the fifth Secretary of State for Work of Pensions to hold the post since he left – a turnover rate of about one every six months.  She has started by doing what every new Cabinet Minister should do if confronted by a policy problem: namely, to promise that she will listen and learn.  There is more to this than the usual bromides.  Rudd is particularly sensitive to the position of women in the system.  She will campaign for more money for the system: Downing Street’s Brexit-driven weakness may thus well be Universal Credit’s gain.  That she is on broadly the same wavelength as the Chancellor over EU policy can’t do her cause any harm.

Writing on ConservativeHome last autumn, Tom Clogherty of the Centre for Policy Studies identified what new money could do to help realise Duncan Smith’s goal: a report from the think-tank, he said, “advocates bold action on Universal Credit, suggesting that the taper – the rate at which benefits are withdrawn against each pound of post-tax earnings over any work allowance – should be cut from 63p to 50p. This would give a huge boost to the lowest earners, while also giving them a strong incentive to increase their hours and make progress in the workplace”.

Separately, senior backbenchers and former ministers are piling on pressure for an end to the benefits freeze.  A coalition of five former Secretaries of State, ranging from Nicky Morgan to David Davis, made the case last year.  Davis said that the freeze contradicts “the basic Tory notion of having a robust safety net and an effective ladder out of poverty.”  Rudd can be expected to make the same case in private.  Whatever your take, one thing is certain.  If Universal Credit is to be introduced in the first place, it must be paid for.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com