Devolving the Adult Skills Budget

The government has announced that it is devolving the adult education budget to London.

It said: “The government remains committed to devolving powers to support local areas to address productivity barriers. We will devolve the AEB to London from 2019-20 (subject to readiness conditions).”

It added: “The government will continue to work with London to explore further devolution of powers over the coming months.”

This announcement gives rise to a great many questions, one of which is whether this devolution will create greater flexibility for training providers to meet the needs of local employers, the community and student needs in London. Currently, it is unclear how this will work in practice.

Provider groups based in multiple regions have been lobbying the SFA for different treatment under the now-imminent devolution plans.

It is likely that the Department for Education and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) will publish a Skills Devolution Green Paper to help clarify responsibilities and priorities but there is no timescale in place.

The Government has, though, written to LEPs telling them that only the London Enterprise Panel would now be allowed to “manage and take decisions” over ESF and other European Union structural and investment funds.

The letter sent to the LEPs said the commission had “advised that this approach is non-compliant” with European Structural and Investment Fund Regulations, which state that only the managing authority — central government in England’s case — could decide where the money goes.

AELP Says; “There appears to be no new information on the future size of the Adult Education Budget for non-apprenticeship skills provision. The budget is being devolved to the city regions and LEPs including London, so AELP is calling for safeguards to protect Traineeship provision across England in areas where the local authorities may not regard the programme as a priority.”

In view of the above, it looks very likely that that ESF/AEB will remain un-devolved until beyond 2020.

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