17. What assessment he has made of the potential role of further education colleges in the work of local enterprise partnerships. (66033)
I am pleased to report that further education colleges are already playing a role with local enterprise partnerships in the north-east and elsewhere. In Yorkshire, the Leeds city region held its first skills conference with the West Yorkshire consortium of colleges and it is now setting up its own skills network. That is one of several examples.
I am sure that the Minister will agree that for FE colleges to contribute to local economic growth, their work forces are key. Has he engaged with Newcastle college about its plans to make 180 staff redundant and to cut the pay of some existing staff by up to £10,000 a year? Given that that is driven in part by a combination of funding cuts and Government priorities, is this not a worrying trend for the future of FE?
The hon. Lady paints a very negative picture. When I talk to local FE colleges, they say that they are delighted that we are freeing them from red tape and that they can respond to local businesses. Of course they would like additional funds, but we all know why there is no additional money any more.