Headlines: September 1st, 2008

A new report is calling for local councils to be given more power over the provision of adult skills. The report, from the New Local Government Network, proposes a more streamlined skills model with more funding and control moving from Whitehall to local councils.

The report, “Licence to Skill: Streamlining the skills system by devolving skills to local authorities”, wants local authorities to be able to choose how best to aggregate their skills commissioning strength sub-regionally, mainly through Multi-Area Agreements.

In 2006, a Treasury study found that the UK faced a bigger skills shortage than most European countries and that the disparities between areas in this country were significantly larger than the European average. Reforms to skills policy will include the devolution of funding and responsibility for 16-19 year olds to local authorities but the NLGN report say that while this is a step forward, skills provision is still too complex and involves too many sub-national agencies.

The report says it is unreasonable and ineffective to give councils new duties to ensure participation up to 19 but to give someone else the funding and powers that are vital in delivering those statutory duties. It adds that if the Government wants to create a unified, integrated and locally responsive 14-19 education and skills phase responsibilities should fall to local authorities.

The author of the report, Nick Hope, said giving councils the power to create a more unified, integrated and locally responsive education and skills system would better serve employers and learners. “The reasons that power should be devolved from the regional tier go far beyond this,” he said and added, “At the regional level RDAs already show leadership in careful partnerships with councils. Additional regional bodies would lack the legitimacy and accountability provided by the democratic mandate of local government.”