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Labour and Lib Dems pledge 16-19 funding protection - but Tories unable to match offer

Labour and the Liberal Democrats today both pledged they would protect funding for 16-19 education if elected in May, but Conservative skills minister Nick Boles said he could not make the same guarantee.

The Liberal Democrat manifesto, launched today, reiterated the party’s promise to protect education funding “from nursery to 19”.

Labour leader Ed Miliband, making a speech on the party’s education policies, said 16-19 funding would be protected if he became prime minister.

However, speaking at The Skills Summit in London, skills minister Nick Boles said he could not “offer or guarantee” that the Conservatives would give the same protection.

However, he said that the skills sector had coped with funding cuts in a way other government departments had not, and that he was confident his cabinet colleagues would listen to his arguments against further cuts.

Referring to "Conservative values" of “making work pay” and “helping people get on in life” he said: “When I make the argument that further cuts to adult education and 16-19 budgets would undermine that principal I think I will get a hearing.”

The minister also pledged to boost apprenticeship funding by £300 million by reallocating money from the welfare budget, something that would send a “better message” to children, he said.

He also said he expected a “substantial expansion” of the traineeship programme if the Conservatives were elected.

Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), said Mr Miliband’s announcement would be “immensely reassuring and encouraging to young people and those charged with providing their education”.

He also said the Liberal Democrat commitment should be a ‘red line’ in any future coalition negotiations.

Mr Doel said he was “reassured” by Mr Boles’ comments that he recognised the “extraordinary efforts” colleges and other providers had made to address the challenges they faced from government cuts.

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