Thousands may lose out on youth training

Ngaio Crequer

Thousands of young people may be refused places on training programmes as new cuts slice away regional youth training schemes, TEC leaders warned this week.

They said regional funding allocations for the next academic year were random, with widespread discrepancies between settlements for different TECs in the same regions. And they warned that flagship programmes such as Modern Apprenticeships could be at risk.

Variations in the funding are dramatic. Milton Keynes North Bucks Chamber of Commerce TEC faces a 19 per cent cut in its allocation for YT programmes.

The Eastern region is facing a cut of 15 per cent, with reductions for individual programmes ranging from 5 per cent to 25 per cent.

Now TEC leaders are calling for a review of the 199798 funding and contracting round.

Chris Humphries, chief executive of the TEC National Council, said: "TECs cannot endure these dramatic changes. It leads to acute problems in terms of managing the relationship with providers."

The fear is that government offices have not taken account of new priorities in youth training.

TECs are still reeling from the Government's decision to slash Pounds 10 million - 38 per cent - off the TEC FE Competitiveness and Development Funds for 199798. This was to pay for the Government's U-turn on college expansion funding.

Sir Garry Johnson, chairman of the TEC National Council, has written to James Paice, the education and employment minister, to express TECs' anger about the cut.

He said TECs' business partners would find out about this "last-minute and indiscriminate cut", and would doubt the seriousness of the Government's commitment to employer investment.

Labour joined principals in calling for ministers to come clean about the cuts needed to bail the Government out of the expansion cash crisis.

A breakdown of the Pounds 82m bill for the last financial year revealed that although Pounds 27m came from underspending at the Department for Education and Employment, another Pounds 30m came from general DFEE funds, and Pounds 20m from unspecified budgets within the employment service.

Shadow education minister Bryan Davies said: "The whole affair has been an unholy mess. The very least FE deserves is a full account of where the money has come from."

Sir Garry's latest broadside is part of an angry exchange of letters between the TEC National Council, ministers and Sir Michael Bichard, permanent secretary at the DFEE.

Mr Humphries said last month: "It would be quite unacceptable for the DFEE to consider switching funds from TEC budgets to college funding in response to political pressure from colleges or others."

He also attacked the Further Education Funding Council, writing: "There must also be a question about why action was not taken on these issues earlier.

"Concerns should have been raised over the extent to which proper planning had been undertaken by the previous regime at the FEFC, when they achieved a trading deficit of Pounds 24m in 1995-96 and left themselves with cash reserves of only Pounds 252,000 at the end of the financial year.

"This should have led to concerns that 1996-97 could pose serious difficulties for the sector unless there were significant and urgent changes in the funding regime."

A DFEE spokeswoman said: "The Pounds 82m has come from within existing budgets which would have been returned to the Exchequer at the end of the financial year."

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