Independent training providers to compete for funding after EU law change

Independent training providers (ITPs) will have to compete for Skills Funding Agency (SFA) contracts following changes to European Union law.

The document, Adult Education Budget: Changing context and arrangements for 2016 to 2017, published on January 28, said that contract arrangements would stay the same for the next academic year.

But it warned: “In advance of 2017/18, changes to EU procurement regulations will require us to procure the adult budget provided to ITPs.

“This means that the AEB [adult education budget] will be subject to competition as part of a procurement process.

“We are working through the detail of this, including taking advice from our group of stakeholders and we will provide further information later in the year.”

The change is not expected to apply to apprenticeships, as the Government plans to introduce the levy on large employers from April 2017. However, it looks set to apply to the rest of the AEB.

Stewart Segal, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said he was aware of the planned change.

He said: “This will mean that the SFA will probably have to run an open tender process some time in 2016.

“Grant funded organisations can have a ‘roll-over’ contract without external tendering, but our view is that all providers should be treated in the same way.

“We also believe that the rules may also allow some budget for each ITP to be ‘rolled over’ without tendering.

“If this was the case, the majority of providers would retain their current contracts.”

He added that the SFA would be discussing how the procurement process should work in practice with AELP in the “next few months”.

An SFA spokesperson said: “We are developing our approach to the competitive procurement of AEB-funded activity in line with EU public procurement regulations, including taking advice from our group of stakeholders. We will provide further information later in the year.”

When asked if the changes would apply to apprenticeships, she added: “We are reviewing the impact of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 on how apprenticeships are delivered, following the introduction of the levy in 2017.

“We will confirm any procurement plans arising from this later in the year.”

An EU spokesperson declined to comment when asked why it was changing the procurement regulations.


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  1. Waste not want not: The Risky business of re-procurement

    After significant cuts and a spending review that gave us a possible reprieve from the almost certain implosion of the FE sector, the specter of EU re-procurement raises its head.This on top of significant changes with Apprenticeships and the staged localism agenda tends to place some skepticism on the funders/Governments intent to have a ‘stable’ FE system fit to deliver the skills needs for our nations future.

    As a not for profit (NFP) consortium in London,we are at the heart of our communities and respond equally well to local and national skills priorities. As a NFP organisation and one of only 59 remaining on the SFA funding list those taking this forward should be wary of the impact of re-procurement based on new EU regulations. This action could mean that tax payer money and charitable/CSR funds used to set up a flexible and competitive FE infrastructure have been wasted. Do commissioners in the UK and EU know how much investment is needed to meet all the requirements to deliver funded provision? I hope that both sense and reason come to prevail when seeking to take forward these new EU rules whether that be for NFP or for profit ITPs.

    Stephen Jeffery
    CEO London Learning Consortium

  2. Vivienne Compton

    In these trying times for adult education providers, I wonder what impact an EU ‘out’ vote might have on stalling the introduction of these new European public procurement regulations relating to the UK adult education budget?