New Council Tax Guide Protects Most Vulnerable Households

If you are disabled, have a health condition or are a carer you could be overpaying Council Tax and not even know it, according to a new public guide

Council Tax

Council Tax

For the first time the government has produced a practical guide highlighting all the Council Tax discounts and exemptions to ensure families aren’t paying more than their fair share of Council Tax.

Local Government Minister Rishi Sunak MP, said:

Council Tax is a vital source of funding for local government, supporting most of the day-to-day services we all use and rely on.

However, no one should be paying more than their fair share. We want to help people keep more of what they earn which is why we’ve produced this easily-accessible guide explaining the discounts and exemptions available – many of which people may never even knew existed.

Full exemptions include when an entire household are full-time students, if a person has recently moved into hospital or a care home or if all people in a household have a mental impairment, including conditions like dementia, or are receiving live-in care.

Other advice the guide contains includes family or ‘granny’ annexes discounts, support for those in hardship, the armed forces, if you live on your own and advice when someone passes away. The guide also explains how you can challenge your Council Tax band.

Education Secretary Calls For An End To Low Value Degrees

New analysis identifies courses where students aren’t earning enough five years after graduating to repay student loans

The Rt Hon Damian Hinds MP

The Rt Hon Damian Hinds MP

Universities and higher education providers offering poor value degrees are letting down thousands of students and costing the taxpayer millions, the Education Secretary has warned today (26 May).

Damian Hinds has called on institutions to drop or revamp courses delivering poor value for money as new analysis shows that on more than one in 10 of all courses, there is a 75% chance that graduates won’t be earning enough five years after leaving university to start making loan repayments.

Every subject – from creative arts to medicine – has the potential to generate a positive return, but the percentage of courses where the loan repayment threshold is not met five years after graduation varies from subject to subject. For example, for psychology it’s more than a fifth of courses and for creative arts it is almost 40% of courses. Graduates must start repaying their loans when they earn £25,000 or over – a threshold that was raised by the government in April 2018.

Mr Hinds has recognised the need for degrees to be both high value to students and the economy, and urged them to make sure they are using the unprecedented levels of data available to them to make sure they are picking a course and institution that is right for them – also considering alternatives like technical education or new high-quality apprenticeships.

The same analysis identified around 20 providers where at least three quarters of all students are still not earning enough to start repaying their loans five years after graduation. While research shows a university degree can improve a person’s earning potential and employability, Mr Hinds believes the figures should be a ‘wake up call’ for universities about their responsibility to deliver the best outcome for students.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:

Our university sector is world class and we are rightly proud of it. Its reputation is built on trust and when young people apply to go to university it is based on the assumption is that a degree will set them up for a bright future – but today’s analysis shows that isn’t always the case.

The opportunity to study at university should be open to anyone with the talent and potential to benefit from higher education. With students and taxpayers sharing the cost of higher education it’s right that we challenge those institutions which could appear to be more focused on ‘getting bums on seats’ than getting students into high quality courses worth paying for.

That’s why I want universities to be brave and ask themselves if they’re running courses that really help students gain the skills they need for the workforce of tomorrow – if they’re not they should improve them or end them. But if universities think other options like apprenticeships or technical education are a better fit for a student, they should give young people that advice rather than put them on a course that isn’t providing what they need for a bright future.

Around 45% of the value of outstanding post-2012 student loans are not expected to be repaid, which comes at a significant cost to the taxpayer.

Mr Hinds says it isn’t right that institutions benefit from student loan funded fee income for delivering poor value courses, as students and taxpayers are the ones that suffer.

Research shows that graduate salary is an important driver when it comes to choosing a university. Universities have benefitted from a sustained period of investment and growth, but this increase in capacity has not always been in those areas that deliver most benefit for students or society.

Mr Hinds’ comments come as an independent panel conducting a review into post-18 education and funding finalises its recommendations to government.

The Prime Minister has previously made clear that value for money will be a key part of the government’s review, which will identify how to help young people make more effective choices between different study routes after sixth-form or college.

As the new universities regulator, the Office for Students (OfS) has made it a condition of registration that a higher education provider must deliver successful outcomes for all of its students. The OfS has the power to intervene where a provider is not meeting this criterion and impose sanctions, where in the most serious cases could include deregistration.

Continued U.S. Support For Democracy In Venezuela

U.S. Department of State

U.S. Department of State

The United States supports the desire of the Venezuelan people to recover their democracy and bring the illegitimate Maduro regime to an end. Previous efforts to negotiate an end to the regime and free elections have failed because the regime has used them to divide the opposition and gain time.

Free elections cannot be overseen by a tyrant. As we have repeatedly stated, we believe the only thing to negotiate with Nicolas Maduro is the conditions of his departure. We hope the talks in Oslo will focus on that objective, and if they do, we hope progress will be possible.

We wish to note that today marks the 17th day since the arrest and disappearance of Edgar Zambrano, First Vice President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, the country’s last remaining democratic institution. Since his detention, Mr. Zambrano has had no contact with his family or his attorneys, and his location is unknown. Today also marks more than two months since the imprisonment of Roberto Marrero, an attorney and chief of staff to Interim President Juan Guaido. They are but two of the 800 political prisoners the Maduro regime held as of May 20.

We join supporters of democracy in Venezuela throughout the world in condemning their illegal imprisonment by the Maduro regime and in demanding their immediate release.

Guyana’s Independence Day

U.S. Department of State

U.S. Department of State

On behalf of the Government of the United States, congratulations to the people of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana on your 53rd anniversary of independence on May 26.

The United States and Guyana have been friends and partners for decades, and we commend and encourage Guyana’s continued leadership on matters of regional concern.  The American Chamber of Commerce-Guyana continues to create trade partnerships and opportunities, resulting in greater prosperity for both our countries.  As Guyana looks toward production of its oil resources, the United States stands ready to assist to ensure all Guyanese will benefit.  The United States looks forward to a future of strong ties and collaboration based on our shared democratic values.

The United States joins you in celebrating Guyana’s diversity, freedom, and natural beauty.  On behalf of the citizens of the United States, I wish the citizens of Guyana a prosperous year and a happy Independence Day celebration.

Colombian Government Establishes Independent Commission

U.S. Department of State

U.S. Department of State

The United States welcomes the Colombian government’s decision to establish an independent commission to examine allegations regarding the Colombian military.

We understand the commission will make recommendations to President Duque in the near term. The United States strongly supports Colombia’s efforts to clarify this issue.

For over three decades, cooperation between the United States and Colombia has strengthened the rule of law, promoted transparency and accountability, and increased respect for human rights.

Colombia has made great strides in advancing human rights and strengthening the institutions that protect them. A stronger, stable Colombia that protects human rights remains a key interest of the United States and the region.

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