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Ward warns Labour on cash

College leaders are preparing for battles over spending with the new Labour Government this autumn to match those they fought with the Tories over the past three years.

Roger Ward, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, this week issued a a warning to college principals that the range of new education and training initiatives funded by government is "unlikely to make a significant contribution" to the problems colleges face.

A campaign was launched this week, including the lobbying of ministers, demands for support from influential MPs and briefing of bodies with an interest in education, including the CBI and TUC.

The AOC submission to the Government's 1997 Public Expenditure Survey listed a wide range of pressures resulting from repeated efficiency measures and the Pounds 115 million cut following the announced freeze on growth.

Mr Ward said this week: "The new Government's commitment to working within existing plans for 1997-98 offers no hope of an early alleviation of those pressures. While there is some reason for optimism about the role colleges will play in the new Welfare to Work, lifelong learning and related programmes, any monies which these bring into the sector will be needed to secure provision for the additional learners involved."

The reluctance of Labour to inject any new cash for initiatives launched under the Tories was illustrated by its reaction to demands for help with schemes for students with special needs.

A programme of action following the Tomlinson report Inclusive Learning was launched this week. But the Further Education Funding Council is understood to have struggled to get just Pounds 3 million over the next three years from the public purse. Colleges have been told that there is little hope of new cash for at least two years.

Mr Ward said: "If we are to have any chance of persuading government of the need for a change of direction, ministers will need to be convinced of the serious consequences of continuing with present policies."

The AOC campaign will also include efforts to raise the media profile of FE and maximise understanding of colleges' problems.

Cash for special needs, page 28

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