Labour conference: Keir Starmer plans to remove charitable status of private schools to raise £1.7bn

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Sir Keir talked about the widening gap between children from wealthy and poor families  (AFP via Getty)
Sir Keir talked about the widening gap between children from wealthy and poor families (AFP via Getty)

Private schools will be taxed £1.7bn to fund improvements to the country’s state schools if Labour wins the next election, Sir Keir Starmer has revealed.

On the second day of the party’s annual conference, the Labour leader insisted he could not “justify” the charitable status enjoyed by the fee-paying institutions.

The party said it would seek to raise the funds by ending the VAT exemption currently in place, which it estimated would bring in £1.6bn, while closing a separate loophole on business tax, adding over £104m.

Labour added that it would use the money to guarantee every child had access to a computer device at home, and to establish a “renewal scheme” for the 1.3 million devices delivered during the Covid pandemic to schoolchildren without adequate access to online learning.

Sir Keir said the move would ensure pupils were “equipped for life”, telling the Sunday Mirror: “Labour wants every parent to be able to send their child to a great state school.

“But improving them to benefit everyone costs money. That’s why we can’t justify continued charitable status for private schools.”

The Labour leader also said he wanted to see a “rethink” on education, with the Covid pandemic exposing the widening gap between children of wealthy and poor families.

Angela Rayner, the party’s deputy leader, added: “Private schools shouldn’t get a tax break. Labour will tax private schools and spend the money on helping the kids that need it.”

The vow to end the charitable status of private schools in England was also included in Jeremy Corbyn’s 2019 manifesto, with a promise to “close tax loopholes enjoyed by elite private schools and use that money to improve the lives of all children”.

The announcement comes after the first day of the party’s annual conference was overshadowed by internal wrangling over an overhaul of Labour’s rule book, with Sir Keir forced to water down his proposals in the face of considerable opposition.

Later today, conference will vote on the new rules, which include increasing the nominations threshold for future Labour leadership contenders from 10 per cent to 20 per cent – a move opposed by left-wing MPs.

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