The UK Labour Party has announced plans to create two-speed regulation for the charity sector, with allowances like tax breaks for good works withdrawn if organisations — and private schools are first in the firing line — don’t align with their vision for a new Britain, it has been warned.
After 13 years of failure to govern conservatively by the Conservative Party it seems likely the next British government, possibly as soon as next year, will be one led by the left-wing Labour Party. Setting out their stall, the British left has made clear it will continue its long-standing crusade against education with a move to remove tax breaks from privately funded schools.
The party claims — against the assertions of experts — charging schools an extra 20 per cent tax as well as removing other tax breaks like being exempt from business rates won’t damage the institutions, and the tax raid will give the government a new pot of money to pay for improvements to government schools. Labour leader Sir Kier Starmer has claimed, incredibly, the policy is “not an attack on private schools”.
They had previously said this assault would be executed by stripping private schools of their charitable status — indeed, Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said in 2021 that “Here’s the truth: private schools are not charities.” But overnight, Labour quietly dropped that, and has set itself on a new course of changing the way charities are governed instead, while claiming this is what they intended to do all along.
Labour-adjacent British newspaper The Guardian reports criticism of this plan to set Britain on the route to a two-speed tax system for charities, where those who don’t please the government of the day can have their tax breaks removed. Julie Robinson, the chief executive of the Independent Schools Council, was reported by the paper as saying: “If Labour takes away the tax relief associated with charitable status for independent schools, the policy would create a two-tier system within the charity sector, setting a worrying precedent that any charity seen as not reflecting the political ideology of the day could be subject to additional taxes.”
The planned move comes just weeks after a British charity that fell foul of the Transgender lobby had to fight for its own survival for, apparently, holding the wrong views. The government’s Charity Commission rejected the bid and secured a court ruling in its favour, saying it was not right for charities to be undermined because of their views not meeting with the approval of others.
Labour’s move to lump new taxes on fee-paying schools are, of course, tinged with old-left class warfare issues and appears to be aimed at a small elite inside the thousands of private schools that educate seven per cent of all children in the country. While this covetousness focuses on the big names, many if not most private schools are not wealthy and simply cannot afford to absorb the burden of sudden cost increases.
As even The Guardian itself noted this year: “While wealthy and elite schools such as Eton and St Paul’s girls school come to mind when people think of fee-paying schools, a larger number of independent schools in England are like the London Welsh school – small, precarious and catering to a niche that state schools can’t provide for.”
It is the children of “strivers” — those families making sacrifices to secure their children the education that’s right for them even if they can barely afford it — who would be most impacted by a government-forced increase in fees, critics have argued. Among those making that are the UK Conservatives, who say the plan is badly thought out and an attack on the aspirational middle class.
That is not to say the UK Conservatives have not been an enormous impediment to aspiration during their time in power, either. As widely reported, the party has punished the middle class, and particularly families, with taxes over the past decade and even as inflation has eroded salaries and pushed caught-in-the-middle families into higher tax brackets originally created for the super-rich, has done nothing to help its own voters.
The next UK general election is expected in winter 2024, and must be held before February 2025.