Nick Clegg spoke to more than one hundred Sheffield sixth-form students this afternoon as he began a series of visits to schools and universities in the run-up to the local elections.
The deputy prime minister fielded questions about bankers’ bonuses, EMA, student debt, and increased tuition fees during the half-hour Q&A session at Tapton School on February 4.
The local elections in May are expected to see a struggle between Labour and the Liberal Democrats over the control of Sheffield city council.
Speaking to Forge Press, Mr Clegg said he intended to visit both University and Hallam to talk to students to secure the student vote: “Of course students are a very sizeable constituency in this city and are an absolute integral part of the fabric of our city.
“I think what we need to do now is demolish some of the absurd myths and misinformation and misleading allegations that have been made about our university reforms.
“In essence what we’re going to do is that whilst what Universities can charge will go up in most respects what graduates will have to repay will go down.
“I know how angry people have been.
“Do I wish I could wave a magic wand and say yes, we’re in government, we will keep everyone happy?
“There are some basic realities- we didn’t win the election. If people wanted Lib Dem policies they have to vote for a Liberal democrat government: they didn’t.”
Mr Clegg said he felt the new system was fairer than the alternate proposal of a graduate tax.
He said that Lib Dem proposals will mean that graduates will not have to start repayments until they are earning over £21,000 and that repayments will be smaller, meaning that many students will have their debts written off.
Mr Clegg said he hoped Paul Scriven’s Lib Dems in the city council would show off what they have achieved: “I think the Lib Dems in the local council can be really proud about what they’ve done: kept council tax increases lower than they’ve ever been before.
“They’ve just announced this week far, far lower job losses in the council than was predicted by Labour or the trade unions.
“They’ve unveiled and implemented a whole new recycling system across the city; they’ve given local communities much greater say by actually handing money down from the town hall to local assemblies.
“I very much hope that Paul Scriven and his colleagues won’t hold back.
“Even in these very difficult times they’re doing their best by Sheffield.”