The government has been selling the apprenticeship levy to employers for over a year now.

They will have “ownership” and be “in the driving seat”, negotiating the cash level of their digital vouchers with providers of choice.

It turns out employers will need a contract with the government, because in fact it’s no longer the employers cash.

The revelation that there will be contracts proves once and for all that the levy is just another tax, and how employers spend government funding they get in return will have to be carefully regulated.

This is of course entirely understandable, as clear rules supported by a robust audit regime will be required to prevent fraud.

Providers already in receipt of apprenticeship funding understand this, but private sector employers who are naturally wary of signing new government contracts may not be so compliant.

This unwelcome surprise for employers needn’t affect the timetable for next April’s levy launch.

But it will strengthen calls for a delay to the ‘negotiated’ way in which the cash will be spent from 1 May.