Local authorities should be excluded from the large employers’ apprenticeship levy, according to proposals put forward by the Local Government Association (LGA) in response to the Enterprise Bill.
In an employment and skills update paper, the LGA encouraged members to raise concerns about the levy with MPs and called on them to highlight other ways for councils to play a positive role in delivering apprenticeships.
“[The levy] is an additional cost at a time of significant financial constraint,” the LGA said in the paper.
The paper challenges a number of aspects of the government’s Enterprise Bill, the details of which were outlined in May as part of Sajid Javid’s (pictured above) first speech as Business Secretary.
It says that with devolved funding, councils can support the apprenticeship programme in other ways, for example “through their role as employers, commissioners and procurers, and through their local economic development and place shaping functions, working with employers of all sizes and LEPs [Local Enterprise Partnerships]”.
Stewart Segal, Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) chief executive, said: “The current levy proposals include all private and public employers and we know that this will create some issues for some public organisations.
“However, the public sector has been slow to take up apprenticeships themselves and they should start working with providers now to extend the opportunities they can offer.”
The view was echoed by a spokesperson for the Association of Colleges, who told FE Week: “Local authorities provide an excellent career path for young people and by providing apprenticeships they would create more career opportunities for students leaving colleges.
“It is therefore disappointing that councils do not want to pay the levy. Everyone should play their part, whether in the public or private sector.”
In its most recent briefing on the Enterprise Bill, released on October 28, the LGA also rejected proposals for mandatory apprenticeship targets for public bodies, including local authorities.
It said that with many councils under pressure to further reduce workforce numbers over the next four years, some by up to 40 per cent, they may lack the job opportunities or people to deliver apprenticeship targets.
“The local government workforce has steadily declined since 2010 and more than 600,000 people have left the sector … Councils have also reduced their workforce capacity to support and deliver training and development, and this includes apprenticeships,” it said.
The LGA added in the briefing: “There is no longer any additional capacity to run or manage apprenticeship programmes,” saying that if targets were set for local government, central government must also devolve funding to cover these these apprenticeships.