On Wed 19th January, over 100 students, education workers and anti-cuts activists gathered in Birmingham City Centre to protest against the scrapping of EMA. That evening parliament voted with a 59 majority to scrap EMA – a benefit of up to £30 paid to students in further education from families with incomes below £21,000.
The IFS found in a study last year that EMA pays for itself, increases participation in education and improves educational outcomes. A UCU survey this month found that 70% of students in receipt of EMA would not be in further education without it. Over 75% of students in Birmingham receive EMA.
Youth unemployment nationally is now over 20% – and since Birminghams unemployment rate is twice the national average, it is likely that youth unemployment in Birmingham is considerably higher than that. The scrapping of EMA will see fewer students entering FE, and instead they will sit on the dole, receiving no training or education whilst costing considerably more.
Geoff Dexter photographed the event, and you can see his photos here
The protesters gathered at the corner of New St/High St for a rally, with FE students; Secondary school workers and activist from Education Activist Network speaking about the importance of EMA and the effect of the scrapping of EMA, as well as the wider cuts in education that have and are happening.
They then marched down New Street, with RBS and Vodafone closing and locking their doors as the demonstrators passed by, before occupying Lloyds-TSB in protest at the bonuses being paid to bankers at nationalised banks – bonuses that could pay for the cuts in education.
Bank bonuses are largely paid to executives and traders – people doing exactly the kinds of jobs that brought down the banking system in 2008, forcing the UK government to nationalise 5 banks, and underwrite the debts of others in order to prevent complete financial collapse. These bailouts lead to the deficit we now have, that is being used as the reason for cutting expenditure.
Whilst ordinary people face cuts – like the £300m that will be cut from Birmingham City Council’s budget – bankers continue to enjoy large bonuses, and grow ever richer.
Bankers caused the crisis, but it is working class people who are paying for it.