Last Wednesday saw an annual event which has seemed to repeatedly pile misery onto students in recent years, the announcement of the Chancellor’s budget.
There was a sense in student communities that this year might provide a reprieve to punishing budgets of the past.
Many believed that, with the huge millennial turnout for Labour in the general election, that Philip Hammond would make a concerted effort to win back the student electorate and remove some of the pressure on his party.
How wrong this proved to be. Where a tuition fee cut, a reinstatement of maintenance grants, and a restructuring of the student loan system had all been touted as possibilities within the budget, not a single one of these suggestions came to fruition.
Students were almost entirely neglected in Hammond’s plans, an utter failure on his part. Moreover, the only real suggestions which seemed to be aimed towards young people was the extension of the 16-25 railcard to be extended to your 30th birthday, and a cut on stamp duty for houses priced at £500,000 or below. The former of these is a tokenistic gesture with no real impact upon the day to day lives of young people, whilst the latter will only trigger a rise in house prices, pushing more money into the hands of the rich.
What this budget has revealed, above all else, is an undeniable contempt for students and young people as a whole.
The generation I am part of have seen a meteoric rise in student fees, which continue to rise, a scrapping of maintenance grants for the poorest students, and a removal of the Education Maintenance Allowance scheme. These three destructive policies are just those from the spectrum of further education, only a miniscule factor of wider economic hardship forced upon my generation from the Tory government. Hammond clearly hasn’t learnt the one lesson that I assumed would sound true from the general election, that the youth of today have had enough. The spike in votes for Labour from the student population was not the result of a trend, nor general left-wing sentiment among the young. Instead, it was the galvanisation of a lifetime of deliberate disenfranchisement orchestrated by those in power. By ignoring the pleas of the young, Philip Hammond has just stoked the flames of change.
Reece Parker is Editor-in-Chief of The Gryphon at Leeds University