Public sector pours scorn on Tories pre-election manifesto

7 Sep 00
The Conservatives' opening shots in the coming election campaign, featuring radical plans for change in education and local government, have been greeted with predictably swingeing criticism from public sector organisations.

08 September 2000

Party leader William Hague, presenting his pre-election manifesto, unveiled plans to denationalise universities, privatise council housing and abolish local education authorities.

Hague's centrepiece proposal, to 'free' universities from government funding, was described as disastrous by lecturers' unions.

Under his plans, universities would be financed through endowment funds topped up with receipts from the sale of public assets, including auctions of mobile phone licences.

The university and college lecturers' union, Natfhe, said Hague's sums did not add up. 'Almost £100bn worth of capital would be needed to generate the funding necessary,' said Tom Wilson, head of Natfhe's higher education department. 'Transferring that sum of money into an endowment system is fantasy.'

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers accused Hague of trying to create a two-tier education system. 'The Conservatives seem to want to turn the clock back 40 years,' said Peter Smith, ATL general secretary.

Rodney Bickerstaffe, general secretary of Unison, said: 'Hague would have us believing in miracles. The manifesto talks about freedom but promises privatisation. How can they cut taxes and increase public expenditure at the same time? Their figures do not add up.'

The Believing in Britain manifesto, which is being sent to all party members for consultation, also outlined direct funding for schools, more private health care and the creation of a National Accounts Commission to set standards for public accounts.


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