The taxpayer was ripped off by the sale of the student loan book, a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report has found.The Treasury’s rush to reduce debt is “short sighted” and risks public assets being sold off “at any price”, it added.When the Government sold the student loan book in 2017, it had a face value of £3.5 billion but was sold for £1.7 billion, which is a return of only 48p in the £1. According to the PAC, the deal was did not represent value for money for public sector finances in the long term. It pointed out that according to the Government’s own analysis, if it had held on to the loans it would have recouped the £1.7 billion sale price in just eight years. –– ADVERTISEMENT ––“We did not expect government to recover the face value of the loans as repayments rely on people’s earnings, which means there is no realistic prospect of them all being repaid in full,” the report said. “But we do expect the Treasury and the Department for Education (DfE) to get the best possible deal on behalf of the taxpayer. In this case, government received too little in return for what it gave up.”The Committee said that Treasury risks accepting too low a price for public assets due to their willingness to accept offers from investors if they exceed government’s theoretical “opportunity cost” of holding on to them.“The government’s objective to reduce ‘public sector net debt’, as with previous asset sales, runs the risk of being prepared to sell at any price,” they said. All undergraduates are given a taxpayer backed loan, administered by the Student Loans Company, to pay their tuition fees.They pay it back as a percentage of their income after the graduate and if they have not paid it back after a period of time, the loan is written off altogether.The sale last February was the first of a four-year programme of sales of loans issued before 2012, when university tuition fees were raised to £9,000. According to the PAC, the deal did not represent value for money for public sector finances in the long term The report also criticised the transparency of the deal, in particular, the refusal to disclose the identity of the investors on the basis that it may weaken the Government’s hand in future negotiations. “It is too easy to fall back on that as an excuse not to reveal information where there appears to be no public interest reason to prevent disclosure,” the report said. “Government should be transparent about who is investing in the loans and potentially profiting from public assets”. The PAC said that the DfE should “at a minimum” disclose publicly the number and type of investors, and should seek permission from all investors to release their names. In future sales, there must be a presumption to release investor names, unless there is an “evidenced and quantified risk” to value for money in doing so.“Government will need to learn quickly from the weaknesses of this sale if it is to secure the best deal for taxpayers in future,” said Meg Hillier MP, chair of the PAC.“When public assets are gone, they’re gone – in the case of this first student loans sale, for too little return.” She said it is “troubling” that the Government would have recouped the £1.7 billion sale price within eight years.“Decisions on asset sales must fully consider value for money but I am not convinced that this transaction, with its narrow and short-term objective of reducing public sector net debt, is fully compatible with that principle,” Ms Hillier added. A Government spokesperson said: “We are confident that we achieved value for money for taxpayers from the first sale of student loans”, adding: “We received more for the loans than the value to Government of retaining them, further strengthening the public finances.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.