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Metro mayors want Whitehall to hand over control of education funds

Ben Houchen with five other metro mayors in Liverpool.
Ben Houchen with five other metro mayors in Liverpool.
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Metro mayors have urged the Government to devolve the budget for the education of 16 to 18-years-olds to English regions to help them develop home-grown talent.

Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis and Ben Houchen, the mayor of Tees Valley, were among those who issued a statement calling for a meeting with Skills Minister Anne Milton “to discuss how we can work together to drive apprenticeships and technical education in our regions”.

Further devolved decision-making would help all our city regions fulfil their potential and develop home-grown talent, in turn helping the entire UK.

Ben Houchen

Mr Houchen yesterday met with five other elected regional mayors from London, the West Midlands, Liverpool, Manchester and the West of England to discuss the issue.

As well as calling for the devolution of skills funding for 16 to 18-year-olds they want control of the Apprenticeship Levy, where all UK businesses with an annual payroll bill of more than £3m use 0.5 per cent of it to pay for apprentices.

Mr Houchen said there are concerns from the business community that the money paid into the Apprenticeship Levy fund is not being properly withdrawn.

He said: “Apprenticeships enable people to earn while they learn, and open doors to highly skilled, rewarding careers. There have been 1.2 million new training starts since 2015, but more needs to be done.

“Government has put its faith in regional mayors to deliver for local people, but we need all levers possible to finish the job.

“The people who are best placed to solve the issues facing our area are those with first-hand experience. Further devolved decision-making would help all our city regions fulfil their potential and develop home-grown talent, in turn helping the entire UK.”

A statement issued yesterday by all eight metro mayors in England said: “If Government allow us these flexibilities and worked with our city regions, we would ensure that it is used to deliver the gold-standard apprenticeships and skills training that our residents, employers, and the country as a whole, so desperately need.”

Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Anne Milton said: “Our reforms to the apprenticeship system are about increasing the number of quality apprenticeships in this country to give people and businesses the skills they need to thrive.

“To do this we have put employers at the heart of designing the new apprenticeship standards and we have seen a big increase in people starting on our new, higher-quality apprenticeships.

“Levy funding is already, quite rightly, fully devolved to employers – giving them direct control so they can invest in high quality training, to suit the needs of their business.”