Devolution, Levelling Up

Top Tory mayor to bid for unprecedented skills powers

West Midlands wants control beyond the adult education budget

West Midlands wants control beyond the adult education budget

West Midlands mayor Andy Street has revealed he will fight for control of more post-16 skills funding from government as negotiations open for a “deeper” devolution deal. 

The levelling up white paper announced plans for the West Midlands and Greater Manchester to be “trailblazer” combined authorities which will be allowed to bid for more powers. 

Both areas took control of their adult education budget in 2019 but have called for greater devolution of skills funding on several occasions, including for 16-to-18 education and apprenticeships. 

Street took to Twitter this evening to say this was one of three areas he will request more power over during negotiations with the government. He stopped short of specifying exactly what funding streams he wants or why they would be better devolved. 

However, Street used his 2021 re-election manifesto to announce that he would “seek the full devolution of all 16-to-18 further education funding to the West Midlands, so that it can be aligned with West Midlands priorities and with 18+ adult education funding”. 

A spokesperson from the WMCA later told FE Week: “We have already seen the benefits of devolved powers over the adult education budget, which has enabled us to work with the further education sector to develop more responsive skills provision that better meets the needs of employers and communities.  

“We are keen to extend our influence over wider skills and training budgets, and the delivery of careers services.” 

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority was unable to say whether it would also seek greater control over skills funding beyond the adult education budget. 

The Association of Employment and Learning Providers warned that there “may be risks” to further skills devolution. “A diverse approach to commissioning can mean that providers are bidding for multiple different pots of funding in multiple different formats,” a spokesperson said. 

“This impacts on their ability to deliver a fully joined-up skills offer to employers operating at a regional and national level.” 

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