Skip to main content

Further Education

Volume 491: debated on Thursday 30 April 2009

7. How many publicly funded further education courses there were in (a) Billericay constituency and (b) England in (i) 2005 and (ii) 2008. (271882)

In 2005-06, 3.85 million adult learners resident in England participated in LSC-funded skills courses. In 2007-08, that total was 3.28 million. The corresponding figures for the Billericay constituency were 5,960 in 2005-06, and 5,060 in 2007-08.

Given that answer, may I raise the issue of bureaucracy? According to the Association of Colleges, the funding system for FE colleges is too slow and too many rules restrict the flow of money between funding pots. Given the fall in FE enrolments that the Minister outlined, not would it be wise for the Government to cut bureaucracy and red tape instead of increasing it by creating new quangos?

I ask the hon. Gentleman to follow closely the passage of the Bill before Parliament that brings into being, with precisely that aim, the Skills Funding Agency. One of the first things that I was able to do as skills Minister was to ensure that we made more moves to deal with any bureaucracy attached to Train to Gain. We are making progress and we will continue to do so.

We heard from the shadow Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts), that potential apprentices are being turned away and from my hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath and Crayford (Mr. Evennett) that the capital funding crisis could have been avoided. While the ship is on the rocks, the Government, as my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Baron) said, intend to reorganise the crew. The changes to the Learning and Skills Council will cost £42 million in vacating properties and a further £190 million in transferring pensions. In confirming those figures, will the Minister recognise that it is time that his lot jumped overboard and gave way to a new team who can steer us to calmer waters?

I always look forward to facing the hon. Gentleman across the Dispatch Box. As always, we do not recognise his figures. We have just had a lengthy Budget debate in which we set out the efficiency savings that we intend to make, and I am surprised that he was not paying attention.