FE sector in anxious wait as date announced for Budget 2018

The FE sector is waiting anxiously to hear its fate after the date of the next Budget was announced.

Chancellor Philip Hammond (pictured) announced today that he will be setting out the government’s approach to spending for the next year on Monday, October 29. 

The Budget is normally announced in November, but will be earlier this year to avoid clashing with the final stages of Brexit negotiations. 

In a post on Twitter, Mr Hammond wrote: “I’m pleased to announce the Budget will take place on 29 October.

“I’ll set out how our balanced approach is getting debt falling while supporting our vital public services, and how we are building a stronger, more prosperous economy.”

The news is likely to raise pulses across the FE world, after Mr Hammond reportedly told ministries without protected budgets to find savings last month. Although the government has committed to protecting schools budgets, FE funding can still be cut.

The Times reported that Mr Hammond wants various Whitehall departments, including further education, to work with the Treasury to find areas for reduction ahead of next year’s spending review.

The lack of funding for FE has been widely acknowledged. Earlier this month,  a report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies warned that the sector has been the “biggest loser” from changes to government funding, with spending per student falling by eight per cent in real terms since 2010-11. 

In July, skills minister Anne Milton told the education select committee that she was “constantly” fighting the Treasury for more funding after admitting that FE had historically “fallen against other sectors.”

The DfE outcome of the DfE’s current review of the “sustainability” of FE is expected to show the sector needs more funding, not less.

Budget day will come shortly after the Association of Colleges’ ‘week of action’, which will run from October 15 and include a march on Parliament to lobby for fair funding in FE on October 17.  

Budgets are normally set on a Wednesday, but the last Wednesday of October this year falls on Halloween. The BBC said it understood that avoiding Halloween was not a factor in choosing a Monday for the Budget announcement this year.