In an unprecedented move all 16 further education college principals in the North-East have united to oppose a 24 per cent cut in funding for adult learning announced by the Government.
They fear that thousands of people could lose the chance of retraining for new jobs because of deep cuts by the Skills Funding Agency, part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
The principals believe the £460m reduction, which follows five years of funding cuts for the further education sector, will result in many adult education courses being removed.
They will include employability programmes that the principals say are crucial in enabling unemployed adults to access the labour market and in tackling social and economic exclusion.
Vocational courses that develop the practical skills demanded by employers will also be affected, in sectors such as engineering, manufacturing, health and social care, and construction.
To illustrate the scale of the cuts East Durham College will lose £805,000 from its adult learning budget for next year while Darlington College will lose £755,000 and Bishop Auckland College will lose £650,000.
This comes at a time when the proportion of over-50s in the workforce is set to rise to a third of the workforce by 2020 (from 27 per cent at the moment) and 50 per cent of workers aged over 55 are proposing to work beyond the state pension age.
The principals have also written to MPs asking for questions to be tabled in Parliament and signed a nationwide petition led by the University and College Union (UCU) which has thousands of signatories.
The principals are also asking students and the business community to support the campaign.
The North-East FE colleges involved in the campaign are: Bishop Auckland College; City of Sunderland College; Cleveland College of Art and Design; Darlington College; Derwentside College; East Durham College; Gateshead College; Hartlepool College of Further Education; Middlesbrough College; New College Durham; Newcastle College; Northumberland College; Redcar and Cleveland College; South Tyneside College; Stockton Riverside College and Tyne Metropolitan College.
Natalie Davison, Principal of Bishop Auckland College, said:
“This will have a devastating impact on the communities we serve. It will stop unemployed people being able to access training to help them secure work, and hamper businesses wanting to improve the skills of their workforce in order to enable growth.”
Kate Roe, principal of Darlington College, said:
“At a time when we need to get more people of all ages into employment and help more people to access new training or improve their skills, we should not be cutting funding for adult skills.As a college we anticipated this 24 per cent cut and planned accordingly and we still offer a wealth of courses for adults. Even so, a reduction in funding of this size in courses across the Tees Valley will impact on both individuals and employers.”
They are being supported by the Association of Colleges, whose chief executive Martin Doel said:
“We’re living in an ever-changing society in which people do not keep to the same career path for their whole lives. These people need the options of returning to education or undertaking training.”
A BIS spokesperson said:
“We fully recognise the important role further education plays in getting people the skills they need to get on. That’s why we’ve committed more than £3.9 billion in 2015-16 to adult learning and further education.
“While total funding has been reduced, priority has been given the areas where the most impact can be made – apprenticeships, traineeships and support with English and maths.
“Many colleges and training organisations have responded well to the need to find other income streams for skills provision and it is this approach that will help them succeed.”
Last month Stockton-on-Tees based car parts manufacturer Nifco announced a £50m contract with Ford which has secured 350 jobs.
But engineering general manager Andy Dunn said:
“As a major automotive employer we are extremely disappointed to learn that there will be a 24 per cent cut in the funding of adult skills training in 2015-16.”
Source – Northern Echo, 24 Mar 2015
The Green Party General Election candidate for Darlington has launched a crowdfunding campaign to cover his costs.
Mike Cherrington, who has lived in the town for more than 20 years, hopes to raise £500 to cover the costs of his campaign.
Mr Cherrington said that because he has worked in social care and mental health services for the past 20 years, he has seen the negative impact of cuts to health and social care, and is strongly against the privatisation of the NHS.
He also aims to get young people involved and interested in politics, and hopes to provide support for small businesses in the town, as well as challenging inequality in Darlington so all residents have equal opportunities and are paid the living wage.
Having worked in Middlesbrough with victims of sexual abuse, Mr Cherrington believes victims of crime should be treated with dignity and respect and believes restorative justice should be used to help prevent reoffending.
“I am not a politician and have never been involved in politics before. I feel very passionately about standing and making a change for people,” he said.
“The Green Party is a positive alternative for the community and one that brings hope.”
A new political party has been launched with the aim of bringing devolution to the North-East.
The North East Party is aiming to secure powers similar to those in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
It intends to contest 12 seats in the region at next year’s general election, funded through membership and donations from people who want political independence from Westminster.
The North East Party (NEP) wants to take control of issues such as job creation, public services, including health and social care, as well as education and public transport. It also says it wants to ensure world class science and research is carried out in the region.
The party’s chairman is Hilton Dawson, former Labour MP for Lancaster and Wyre, who lives in Warkworth, Northumberland, and is from the area.
The 60-year-old social worker, who has a wife, two daughters and is a grandfather-of-four, said: “We are the most neglected region in England and until we have real power and real decision making here we won’t be to address the fundamental issues of the North-East.
“This is the poorest region in the country with the highest level of unemployment and the highest level of social deprivation.
Susan McDonnell, a former Peterlee Town Councillor and Labour Party member, is considering standing against Easington MP Grahame Morris in the general election next May.
The 49-year-old, who lives in Peterlee with her husband, and has one son, narrowly missed out on a seat on Durham County Council last year.
Ms McDonnell, the party’s administrator, who works as an office manager for an email marketing company in Newcastle, said: “The purpose of the party is to bring political representation to the North-East.
“We had a referendum on regional assembly and that failed because it was dressed up as another level of bureaucracy.
“What we would aim to try and do is get true devolution for the North-East so we are not beholden to Westminster. We would decide on the key issues that affect the region with our own Government.
“It won’t be a separate country, but we will have devolved power so decisions that affect the North-East will be made here in the North-East by North-East people.”
The first gathering of the North East Party will be held at the Durham Conference Centre on Monday, June 16 from 6pmto 9pm.
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Source – Durham Times, 27 May 2014