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Accounting adjustments

The public accounts committee discusses franchised provision

Today’s Institute for Fiscal Studies report could hardly be clearer: money is tight. It finds “only a weak economic case” for tax cuts in next week’s budget, warning that even without them, if existing spending assumptions for the NHS, schools, defence, overseas aid and support for childcare are accurate, spending on other public services will need to be slashed by around £20 billion in cash terms by 2028-29. Those services include higher education and research.

It is against this background that the House of Commons public accounts committee heard evidence yesterday about steps being taken to tackle fraud in franchised higher education provision. The concern is that the taxpayer has been forking out millions of pounds in loans for suspicious student applications, mis-sold courses and poor-quality provision because of fraudulent activity sometimes driven by organised crime.

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