Mayors’ use of AEB powers ‘disappointing’, says ex No 10 adviser

Ex skills advisers Alison Wolf and Michael Barber will share their insider perspectives on how further education and skills is perceived in Whitehall

Ex skills advisers Alison Wolf and Michael Barber will share their insider perspectives on how further education and skills is perceived in Whitehall

England’s combined authority mayors need to “step up” and do more with their devolved skills powers, a former Number 10 policy adviser has said.

Baroness Alison Wolf will appear alongside Sir Michael Barber, who until recently advised DfE and the Treasury on skills policy implementation, on the first episode of the new series of the Let’s Go Further podcast next week.

The two public policy experts will give their insider perspectives on how further education and skills is perceived in Whitehall, and what reforms the next government should prioritise.

Wolf will speak of disappointment at how combined authority mayors in England don’t appear to have made much use of their devolved powers on adult education.

“I just am really disappointed by how few seem to me to have done anything more than essentially just carry over the quite restrictive ‘pot here, pot there’ regime which they’ve inherited from DfE,” Wolf will say.

With the introduction of degree apprenticeships, the lifelong learning entitlement and more employer-led local skills plans, Barber will make the case for a single regulator for tertiary-level education.

“I would like to see, whoever the next government is, a single regulator for post-18 education looking more consistently at the emerging range of options than we’re able to do with the current system,” he will say.

Wolf will also explain how consistent calls from businesses for apprenticeship levy reform were batted away by the Treasury.

“What you mostly got in Number 10 was a combination of businesses lobbying to be allowed to do whatever they want to with the money and Treasury going ‘this is a tax, get off our lawn’.”

Both guests will set out what they believe should be the next government’s priorities for FE and skills. Barber will argue for “significant investment” so England can be “the leading provider of skills to the 21st-century workforce in the world”.

For Wolf, her top priority is “to build on the success of the bootcamps” and “a much larger proportion of college activity focussed on locally driven, locally relevant skills provision”.

Wolf and Barber will appear on episode 1 of the new series of the Let’s Go Further podcast, produced by the Skills and Education Group and guest-hosted by FE Week editor Shane Chowen, available to download from all major podcast platforms on March 26.

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One comment

  1. Ian Wallace

    Too right!! The West Midlands Combined Authority have no ESOL or Functional Skills centres in the West Midlands through mismanagement of procurement and very dubious practices . Give the powers back to ESFA immediately .