Labour is calling for a new review of the funding for Somerset Skills and Learning (SS&L) after it emerged that it is proposing the closure of six centres and more than 50 staff redundancies. A government U-turn which gave back to SS&L £2 million in lost funding has not been enough to secure the future.
SS&L was hit with a 97% funding cut in September. But after a campaign by Labour and others it was then given 75% of its required funding as “transitional” funds. However, this still left the company almost £1 million short. People booked on to adult education courses are still waiting to hear whether they will go ahead. They have been told that courses with enough students to be viable will start this term.
But the future is going to be harder. SS&L’s chief executive, Susie Simon-Norris said:
“A radical restructure has been proposed and this would sadly mean losing almost a third of our staff and closing six centres to reduce our overheads. We have no choice – the funding cuts have left us in a very difficult position.
“We also need to drastically reduce our delivery of community learning courses, a terrible blow for Somerset. We still don’t think the government realises that by reducing our funding as they have done, Somerset’s community misses out on vital and unique community education, so we are determined to keep lobbying to have this reinstated.
“The saddest and most difficult part is having to let loyal, long-standing and hard-working staff members go. Through no fault of the organisation’s, many people will be losing their jobs just before Christmas and I put this firmly at the door of the funding body which has failed to understand the impact of the cuts to our community and the service our staff provide. It is devastating.”
Labour says this awful news is a direct result of Conservative policy at county and national level. West Somerset Labour Party chair Maureen Smith said:
“This is a terrible blow for adult education in Somerset. West Somerset is likely to suffer very badly. These drastic cuts are a consequence of the decision by Conservatives on the county council to out-source this important service. Education is not just about preparing people for work. With an ageing population, it is vital for social inclusion and well-being. Labour will continue to campaign for education for all.”
Wells Labour Party secretary Michael Sawdon-Smith said: “Once again the poor management of our public services by the Conservative government is having a negative effect on Somerset residents. A completely unwarranted and avoidable funding crisis created by the central government means Somerset will lose out. It means less inclusion and more loneliness for the elderly, it means job losses and less accessible community resources. And what is so sad is that it didn’t have to be this way.”