West Yorkshire Combined Authority has agreed to raise its adult education budget in line with inflation to address “genuine concern” from providers over soaring costs.
The boost follows a 3.5 per cent increase for Greater London to adult learning at GCSE level and below, while the West Midlands Combined Authority announced in December a 10 per cent uplift to its adult education budget (AEB) for this year.
West Yorkshire Combined Authority agreed the 10 per cent rise for its formula-funded AEB, applied retrospectively for all enrolments at level 2 and below for 2022/23.
Tracy Brabin, the authority’s Labour mayor, said: “Without this uplift in funding rates, providers report a genuine concern they would have had to reduce their offer to learners in West Yorkshire, reducing hours of courses, increasing class sizes and reducing teaching assistant support. Some providers may even have had to stop provision which is no longer viable.
“This is clearly not a situation we could have accepted as it would have reduced the quality of adult education provision in West Yorkshire.”
The current West Yorkshire AEB budget for 2022/23 is £66.4 million, according to the authority’s report.
It helped support 43,000 individuals in 2021/22 – the first year it took control of the AEB pot – with key priorities that year including boosting digital skills, increasing level 3 qualifications and tackling areas of skills shortages.
The authority’s report said that frozen funding rates over the last decade, exacerbated by inflation and rising costs, meant providers were struggling to recruit qualified staff.
It also warned that a rate rise will likely mean a reduction in the number of people supported, estimated to be around 10 per cent fewer learners as a result of a 10 per cent uplift in funding.
“A rate increase for providers means that the same value of funding spreads across fewer learners. We cannot afford to increase provider allocation in line with the rate increase,” the authority said.
However, that is not expected to impact community learning numbers as that uses a different funding methodology.
The authority has also pledged to continue lobbying the government for an increase in devolved adult educating funding.