Alistair Darling unveiled a Budget today that he hopes will help Labour standout in May’s General Election as the right choice to lead the UK’s recovery.
Measures announced by the chancellor include a one-off £2.5 billion package that will support small businesses to promote innovation and skills.
The government’s jobs or training guarantee for people under 24 who have been out of work for six months has also been extended to 2012.
However, initial reactions from the Further Education and Skills sector indicate the measures do not go far enough.
Alan Tuckett, chief executive of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE), warns the government is failing to invest in training and education for everyone.
Mr Tuckett says: “We welcome the recognition that recession can damage the life chances of young people and the central role learning can have in offsetting that damage. However for people who lose their jobs in their 40s and 50s there is just as urgent a need for access for learning and training opportunities if people are not permanently to be sidelined by the current economic difficulties.”
“We are disappointed that this has not been highlighted in today’s Budget, however we hope that it will be given the priority it undoubtedly deserves in future ministerial discussions, following the General Election.”
Today’s Budget also unveils an allocation of £15 million to support shared services pilots in Further Education. The funding aims to help colleges respond to the current public sector funding squeeze, protecting their teaching and learning activities.
According to research by the Learning and Skills Network, an education charity, colleges could save on average 20 per cent of administrative budgets by sharing services.
However, LSN says the government must address barriers to service sharing, such as the VAT that must be paid by colleges. Other parts of the public sector, such as local authorities and NHS trusts, do not have to pay VAT on shared services.