Power could prove costly

27th April 2007 at 01:00
Unions fear new laws will be pointless without the cash

EXTRA POWERS to pass education laws in Wales after the elections will be accompanied by the slowest spending increases from Westminster since devolution, it was claimed this week.

Labour has vowed to rush ahead and "take an early opportunity" to push through radical plans to underpin its new agenda for 14 to 19-year-olds if it wins the May 3 elections with a majority.

Sources close to the government this week confirmed that the new law-making powers would affect education most, with measures for the curriculum, school transport and further education already planned.

Other political parties are also gearing up to take advantage of the new powers if they form a government or become part of a widely speculated coalition.

But it has also emerged that Wales's 60 Assembly members face tightening their belts, with a drop in spending increases year on year from the Westminster-delivered block grant in the new term.

It has also been predicted that education could lose out as the new government takes over other policy-making areas from England.

Brian Lightman, vice-president of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "There is no point in using the new powers to make new legislation without new funding."

Concerns that some of the government's flagship policies, such as the play-led foundation phase and 14-19 learning pathways, will be underfunded are already widespread. Leading think-tank the Institute of Welsh Affairs warns of "little room for manoeuvre" when increases drop year-on-year from the current 3 per cent per annum to less than 2 per cent.

A source told TES Cymru: "Education is already highly devolved and, because other areas of policy will now have greater powers, education could lose out."

The Government of Wales Act 2006 comes into force after the May 3 election.

For the first time there will be formal, legal separation between the government and the National Assembly of Wales. The Assembly will be able to pass laws that would previously have gone through the UK Parliament, under an all-powerful education, lifelong learning and skills minister.

However, control over teachers' pay and conditions will be retained by Westminster, as will current funding mechanisms.

Election, page 4Leader, page 26

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