Skills minister responds to concern apprenticeship budget will be overspent

The apprenticeship budget will be “alright” for the rest of the year, the skills minister has said.

Anne Milton (pictured above) was speaking exclusively to FE Week following a parliamentary debate on apprenticeships and skills this afternoon.

She was asked if she had any concerns about the size of the apprenticeships budget, following reports late last year that it was heading for a £500 million overspend in 2018/19.

“I always want more money – the more we’ve got, the more we can do with apprenticeships,” she said in response.

But she had no fears about the budget running out – either right now or for the rest of the year.

“I think we’re alright until July,” she said.

Ms Milton’s remarks echo those of Keith Smith, the director of apprenticeships at the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

He told FE Week in December that he was “not expecting any pressure” on the £2 billion budget this year, despite the Institute for Apprenticeships warning of a potential overspend.

The figures, included in a presentation by the institute’s chief operating officer in November, showed the apprenticeships budget could be overspent by £500 million in 2018/19, rising to a £1.5 billion overspend in 2021/22.

They were exclusively reported by FE Week earlier in the month and prompted demands for an open debate on how the levy operates, and for the IfA to share the full presentation.

Mr Smith suggested the presentation was “trying to set out one scenario or a potential, particular illustration of what the budget might do and might happen” depending on take-up.

Shadow skills minister Gordon Marsden wrote to Sir Gerry Berragan, boss of the IfA, asking for the presentation to be made public, after the institute refused to share it. 

He was told in late December that the institute was “considering” releasing it.

And Robert Halfon, chair of the influential education select committee, urged the government to be “open and transparent” about any potential overspend.

He made the remarks after the education secretary Damian Hinds dodged a question about it in parliament in December.

For more on today’s Westminster Hall debate and the interview with Anne Milton, see this week’s edition of FE Week.


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