Labour is calling on the government to reverse a drastic cut in funding that is threatening the future of adult education and vocational training in Somerset. People due to start courses this month have been told they won’t be going ahead as planned and there are fears that trainers could lose their jobs.
The courses affected are community-based classes run by SS&L -formerly Somerset Skills and Learning. A statement on its website says: “Due to government funding cuts we are not accepting course enrolments at this time.”
Somerset Skills and Learning was part of Somerset County Council until 2015, when it was floated off as an independent not-for-profit company. Just two years on, it appears to be struggling to survive. The cut by the Education and Skills Funding Agency means it has lost 40 per cent of its budget.
The Labour leader on Somerset County Council, Leigh Redman, said:
“The news that SS&L has suffered this huge cut is shocking. Somerset is the only county to have lost its funding for community based courses. If SS&L ceases to be viable as a result of this cut, apprenticeships and skills training that people need to get jobs could be the next to go.
“Adult education and training for young people are vital services and it will be a scandal if people lose out because the government is withdrawing money. Somerset Skills and Learning had a good record in providing education and training in the county. The government must ensure that this service continues.”
The West Somerset Labour Party chair, Maureen Smith, said:
“This will be a blow to many people who were expecting to attend classes in the new academic year. It seems that Somerset is the only county in the country to have lost funding on this scale.
“This is a consequence of the decision by Conservatives on the county council to out-source this important service. When Somerset Skills and Learning became a separate company, we were assured that its service would continue. But just two years later, courses are being postponed and the future of the whole organisation must be in doubt. The loss of SS&L would be a severe setback to the current plans for the economic regeneration of Minehead. ”
Sedgemoor Labour councillor Kathy Pearce said:
“This is a massive, short sighted cut. SS&L has been a really accessible way of improving knowledge and learning at affordable prices. It deserved to be better promoted – not cut.”