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TECs in 'bid' for lottery windfall

Directors of the 81 training and enterprise councils have approached the National Lottery charity board for funding, Labour's training spokesperson Stephen Byers has alleged.

He says this flies in the face of the Government's pledge that cash from the lottery would never be used to fund existing programmes. Mr Byers has written to Gillian Shephard, Education and Employment Secretary, demanding confirmation.

His allegation follows earlier Labour claims that spending on TECs in England was slashed by Pounds 197 million this year.

The TECs and Government do not deny that cuts have been made but dispute the scale, which Labour has claimed is 11.9 per cent of the total national budget of Pounds 1.7 billion.

In his letter to Mrs Shephard, Mr Byers says: "I have been informed that Chris Humphries, director of policy for the TEC national council, met Gerald Oppenheim and Timothy Hornsby of the National Lottery charity board to discuss the possibility of TECs being able to bid directly for funds from the lottery. "

The idea was understood to have come from the Conservative peer, Lord Stockton, former chair of Central London TEC. The Prime Minister, John Major, has personally pledged not to use lottery money to replace existing spending, Mr Byers points out. He asks if Mrs Shephard is "content to see the bodies responsible for the Government's training programmes having to go cap in hand to the National Lottery charity board for funding".

Labour's figures suggest cuts of around a quarter to the worst-hit TECS. Suffolk TEC tops the league with an alleged 25.4 per cent or Pounds 5.1 million cut, followed by Hertfordshire with a reduction of 24.5 per cent, totalling Pounds 6.8 million. The TEC said to be losing the most money is Hampshire, with an alleged budget cut of Pounds 8.2 million.

But a national TEC spokesman insisted the cuts are wildly overstated, and accused the Opposition of using inaccurate and outdated figures as political ammunition.

A spokeswoman for Suffolk TEC said: "We suffered spending cuts this year, but the figure for us was Pounds 1 million, not the Pounds 5.1 million Labour claim."

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