London mayor to use AEB top-slice to lobby for more powers

A £3 million department created by the Greater London Authority using part of the capital’s adult education budget will also be used to lobby for control of 16-to-18 funding.

The plans were revealed in a job description for one of the top roles in the new AEB team, seen by FE Week, and have attracted more criticism for London mayor Sadiq Khan.

The unit will “act as the GLA’s in-house skills funding policy expert to inform any future cases to government for devolved budgets and responsibilities related to e.g. 16-to-18 technical education and skills activity, or other aspects of the skills system,” it says.

FE Week revealed last month that Mr Khan was planning to top-slice around one per cent of the capital’s £311 million AEB to fund over 50 new bureaucrats. They will form a skills and employment unit which will dish money out when devolution kicks in next year.

A funding policy and systems team is also being set up using AEB money – bringing the whole department up to over 60 staff members.

Sadiq is motivated by his belief that no Londoner should be left behind

Principals at a couple of the capital’s largest colleges have blasted the prospect of diverting adult education cash away from frontline learning to administrators – although the GLA insists the blame lies with the government’s unwillingness to pay for what it sees as necessary oversight.

The news that it will now also pay for creating policy for learners who are supported by other funding streams has led to even more condemnation.

“There are some 457,000 Londoners without qualifications and thousands more with health issues and older learners,” said Naina Kent, the equality representative for the University and Colleges Union’s London regional committee.

“That is what the budget is there for, and not on creating policy for those learners who are supported by other funding streams.

“The plan to take money away from the devolved AEB in London by the GLA to fund highly paid administrators will directly impact on those who most need the funding.”

It has been no secret that Mr Khan wants the GLA to take control of more than just the AEB.

In his mayoral election manifesto in 2016, he said he wanted to “call for the devolution of further education funding for 16- to 19-year-olds”.

He also wanted the apprenticeship levy paid by London’s employers to be “ring-fenced to the capital to make sure this benefits young people and businesses in London”.

“Sadiq is motivated by his belief that no Londoner should be left behind and to emphasise his commitment to the skills agenda is setting up a new team to ensure he can deliver for learners of all ages,” a spokesperson for the mayor said.

The GLA is currently publically rowing with the government over Mr Khan’s plan.

“Presently the mayor is funding all of the posts out of his own budget,” the GLA spokesperson added.

“Unless he receives an administration budget for future years, he will be forced to fund those elements of the posts which are focused on AEB from the AEB.”

The Department for Education insists it had awarded the GLA “sufficient funds to prepare”, providing £235,139 in “implementation funding” between September 2017 and the end of March – more than any other local authority.

However, this was a third of what the GLA requested. In its business case for implementation costs, it said it needed £629,512.65 for the transition.

There will be no further cash to cover ongoing administrative costs after the London authority and seven other mayoral combined authorities take over responsibility of the AEB from next year, the government has admitted.

Mr Khan is launching London’s first-ever standalone skills strategy, Skills for Londoners, tomorrow. Follow @FEWeek on Twitter for live updates from 10am.