Less generous adult education clawback threshold offered in most devolved areas

The Education and Skills Funding Agency’s threshold for funding adult education courses that are not delivered is more generous than most mayoral combined authorities this year, FE Week has found.   

Whitehall now controls less than half of the country’s AEB, with the rest administered by nine mayoral combined authorities and the Greater London Authority.   

Latest funding rules for each area show that most will claw back funds where grant-funded contracts handed to colleges and adult and community learning providers have not been spent in full.   

Here are the reconciliation thresholds for each area, according to their latest published funding rules: 


Cambridgeshire and Peterborough 

For grant-funded providers, the combined authority will apply a performance threshold of 100 per cent for 2021/22 and all unspent AEB funds will be recovered through profiled payments in January to March 2023.   

Over-performance of up to 105 per cent will be paid, however, “subject to the availability of budget”.   

Procured providers in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough will be paid on actual delivery and reconciled against proposed delivery plans on a monthly basis. Any over-delivery will not be funded. 


Greater Manchester 

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority conducts monitoring checks on grant and procured providers’ performance at four points throughout the year. At these monitoring points, where providers have identified actual or potential underspend within their current allocation, they will be given the opportunity to voluntarily reduce their allocation. Any underspend will be returned to the central pot to be redistributed within Greater Manchester.   

Should a provider continue to record an underspend year on year, the combined authority “reserve the right to review future allocations”, according to the funding rules.   

The GMCA said it will support all providers who over-deliver in 2021/22 by up to three per cent above their current core devolved AEB allocation. 


Greater London 

At the end of 2021/22 the Greater London Authority will apply a three per cent reconciliation tolerance for under-delivery. Where delivery of the overall AEB is less than 97 per cent of a provider’s block grant funding allocation, the authority will claw back funds.   

An over-delivery payment to all AEB grant providers who perform up to 103 per cent above their AEB allocations will be applied for the first time in London in 2021/22.   

Procured AEB contracts have separate contractual agreements that allow for reward of over-delivery, a GLA spokesperson said. Procured AEB providers may request an increase of up to ten per cent of their original lifetime contract value “subject to meeting a number of contractual criteria”. 


Liverpool City Region 

Liverpool will apply a 97 per cent tolerance to under-delivery for grant-funded providers.   

Procured providers will have their contract reduced at performance management points throughout the year if they are showing signs of potential underspend.   

No over-delivery will be paid for either grant or procured providers. 


Tees Valley 

There will be no tolerance for underspend for all Tees Valley providers. “TVCA reserve the right to recover any underspend below the full TVCA AEB 2021/22 allocation,” the combined authority said.   

Any over-delivery will also not be funded. 


West of England 

The West of England said it has a 97 per cent tolerance for under-delivery but it is unlikely to recover funds “as we would generally try to take this into consideration when calculating future allocations”.

A spokesperson said the combined authority also has a mitigation process that allows providers to submit a business case “regarding any underspend and potentially be awarded payment protection if they have made all efforts to deliver adult education in line with our strategy”.  

There will, however, be no payment for over-delivery. 


West Midlands 

The West Midlands Combined Authority’s latest funding rules does not show a tolerance for underspend in 2021/22. However, FE Week understands that a 97 per cent threshold is in place. 

But the rules do state that any over-delivery from grant and procured providers will not be funded, unless agreed in writing in-year with the WMCA. 


North of Tyne 

The North of Tyne Combined Authority said it reserves the right to recover any underspend, in full, below the provider’s 2021/22 AEB allocation. 


Sheffield City Region 

The threshold set by Sheffield City Region for 2021/22 will be that all providers must earn 100 per cent of their allocation, or hand back their unspent funds. 


West Yorkshire 

West Yorkshire will apply a three per cent reconciliation tolerance in 2021/22. 

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  1. Dave Spart

    Why do we continue to call it “underspend”? It’s under-earning, but in a lot of cases providers will still be incurring most of the expenditure.

  2. On balance, has funding devolution been positive or negative?

    Proportionately more or fewer people engaged in beneficial learning of a higher or lower quality…?

    Hopefully, devolution is occurring within a plan with measurable indicators, rather than just being an experiment.