From education to employment

FE grant may breach EU competition rules

The Association of Learning Providers (ALP) has revealed problems with a recent capital grant for an employer after the scheme was challenged. It is feared the project in question may be in breach of EU state aid rules restricting unfair competition.

EU competition law is a critical component in the Union’s internal market, which allows the free movement of workers, goods, services and capital in a borderless Europe. While many public services and utilities have successfully argued they should be exempt, FE remains in the firing line.

ALP and the Skills Funding Agency have quickly got together to ensure there is no unnecessary cessation of projects, having decided against a wholesale suspension of aid unless there is clear evidence to suggest an individual project may be in breach of EU legislation.

Early indications are that only a handful of schemes are at risk, but ALP is conscious that providers will be nervous after committing considerable time and resources to get projects off the ground. Skills Funding Agency director David Hughes has offered to meet with project teams to clarify the areas of greatest risk.

Nathan Brown

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