Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Lib Dem party, answered questions from students and residents at his Q&A session in Nottingham. Clegg discussed issues such as student parking in Notts, graduate unemployment and helping “the working poor”.
Nick Clegg, in distinct opposition to Nottingham council’s policy on parking permits, announced that it was “wrong to smuggle student council tax through the back door”. Although students do not pay council tax, as per the nation-wide agreement, they are not eligible in Nottingham for free parking permits, despite their student status and the fact that they have a residency in the city. Nottingham students have long been locked in a battle with the council over residential parking permits, which Clegg said “chip away” at the rights students have not to pay tax in this country.
The question was asked by our Accommodations and Community Officer, Sian Green, in the Q&A held in Nottingham last week. Green told Impact that the parking restrictions are “blatant discrimination”. She will be consulting students this year and plans on bringing the issue to the council again.
Clegg also answered a question on how to solve the levels of graduate unemployment. With currently 10,000 young people in Nottingham out of work, this is an issue especially important for those present in this venue. Clegg emphasised the Youth Contract, designed by the coalition as an advance on the “temporary” help initiated by the Labour government before it. Clegg said this contract with the government gives young people work experience and apprenticeships. It also provides incentive to employers in taking on young people, through a government subsidy of the first six month salary for the employee. Over the next three years, Clegg assured the audience that this would affect half a million young people.
Many of the questions were about the economy, with Clegg stating that the government was “open to any ideas to get money circulating”, but that he was optimistic with the plans to change the banking system that the coalition had developed. The “deeply damaged” banking system he said was like a “body without a heart”, and mentioned several policies, such as a new “state supported business lending bank” to be developed, to ensure that the system “never again blows up in our faces like this”. He further mentioned that a policy to be announced in April would ensure two million people on low pay would be exempt from paying taxes.
The room was tense at a questioner’s demand for Clegg to “help the working poor”. The question came from a worker at a food bank, where the “Victorian” system was one where “the poor are feeding the poor”. With a loud round of applause at the question, the government appeared distinctly out of touch with the realities faced by the poor in this country. Clegg answered by noting the emphasis on getting people into work that the government policies have so far been aimed at, and also mentioned the pre-school support benefit that all children would be receiving.
Questions were also asked on the environment, to which Clegg outlined policies such as the ‘green deal’, to be put into place in the coming year whereby home insulation is funded by the government at no cost to the home owner. Further questions were answered on gay marriage and asylum seeking, both of which Clegg empathised with the issues raised and echoed much of the rhetoric of his election campaign messages.