Don’t cut allocations to meet savings target, pleads sector

The government has been warned against looking to FE allocations to help meet Chancellor George Osborne’s aim of a £900m cut by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Department for Education (DfE).

Each is staring down the barrel of £450m cuts this financial year — with FE budgets specifically earmarked for savings.

But neither has detailed how it might hit its underspend target from the Chancellor, which formed part of a package of measures aimed at reducing the public deficit by £4.5bn.

However, a BIS spokesperson said it would be “asking the SFA for advice on how savings can best be achieved in line with ministers’ priorities around apprenticeships and priority FE participation funding”.

James Kewin
James Kewin

Sixth Form Colleges Association deputy chief executive James Kewin and Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief executive Stewart Segal both warned the government against slashing SFA and Education Funding Agency allocations in-year.

Mr Kewin said the cuts were “troubling”, and called for urgent detail of where the axe will fall, adding: “Colleges have already received their funding allocations for 2015/16 and have budgeted accordingly. To impose a cut to student funding at this late stage would be extremely reckless.”

Mr Segal told said: “Providers will have made planning assumptions off the back of those allocations and although they might not be contractual it would be a real issue if they were changed at this stage.”

Stewart Segal
Stewart Segal

Mr Osborne’s announcement on Thursday (June 4) came just four months SFA boss Peter Lauener revealed providers were already facing cuts of up to 24 per cent. The cut is based on a 17 per cent cut to the adult skills budget, compounded by the protection of apprenticeships funding.

Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “Colleges are working exceptionally hard to educate young people and adults and to meet government’s objectives, including ensuring everyone reaches a good level of maths and English, there are sufficient number of traineeships and apprenticeships and providing higher technical and professional education. But if Ministers want this to continue they need to stop cutting college funding.”

A BIS spokesperson said: “A significant proportion of the savings will be found through surrendering underspends, making efficiencies and reducing lower value spend.

“We will be asking SFA for advice on how savings can best be achieved in line with ministers priorities around apprenticeships and priority FE participation funding, and whilst safeguarding the resilience of the sector.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “These savings will come from a variety of measures including expected departmental underspends in demand-led budgets, efficiencies and some small budgetary reductions.”


Picture: PA

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  1. Mike Farmer

    The mismatch betwwen the financial years of government and colleges has bedevilled financial planning for FE ever since I started in the sector in 1966, irrespective of who was in power. The ‘in-year’ cuts now being demanded are yet another example of this mismatch, which further militate against sound planning, and will result in short-term savings where the long-term impact cannot be properly measured. The SFA allocations for 2015/16 (Aug-July) have already factored in an anticipated cut in government funding for 2016/17 (April-March) which is why there have been such drastic cuts already. I’m only pleased that I am no longer a college governor and having to try to make sensible decisions in such a climate.

  2. Noel Johnson

    Short term efficiencies

    There is no doubt that the UK needs to continue cutting unnecessary costs in order to reduce a deficit that seems to be hard to shift, but the continuing cuts to an already stretched education system is simply wrong!

    During my time at secondary school I was taught about the Industrial Revolution. I learned about the role Britain played in the growth of the industrial world. I visited industrial museums, toured factory’s & felt a deep routed sense of pride and patriotism that is still prevalent today.

    Throughout my career to date, firstly in the Engineering sector, inspired by my early experiences, and then in Further Education, sharing my skills, experiences and passion with others, I have witnessed, to my despair and shame, the decline in our industrial core and skills, a manufacturing core that formed the backbone of the worlds industrial heritage.

    We have, over the past 20 years, made significant progress in equipping young people with the skills they need, through apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeship programmes as well as offering a range of vocational and applied learning routes through FE and HE.

    No one would argue that it is only through first class education and skills training that our economy can truly recover.
    Our work so far developing skills for the future , as good as it is, only allows us to tread water, we need to do so much more if we’re to regain our position as a world industrial leader.

    It is clear that difficult choices must be made for the allocation of diminishing financial resources, and education is one of many competing essentials, but we must retain a viable share of this resource if we are to increase the number of people making an economic contribution to our nation.

    I, like many others, seem to swing between positive hope for the future of our sector & the despair of another financial kick in the unmentionables!

    We need this Government to hold its nerve, investing in education and skills training for all as well as supporting continued inward investment, providing career opportunities for the workforce of the future.
    Let’s not let the need for short term efficiencies, no matter how important, blind us to the needs of our current incumbents