Control of a £22million-a-year adult education budget in the North of Tyne will make sure skills and training meet local needs far better, it has been claimed.
At its meeting on June 11, Northumberland County Council’s cabinet approved the devolution of this funding from central government to the North of Tyne Combined Authority.
The transfer, which was approved by the combined authority last week and is set to be signed off by the other two constituent councils – North Tyneside and Newcastle – this month, also needs to get the nod from Parliament later this year.
Council leader Peter Jackson said: “Wherever I go in Northumberland, we have some world-class businesses and they are saying to us on a consistent basis that they can’t find the people with the skills in our communities to fill all the good jobs they have.
“We are entering an age where people will need to have more than one career in a lifetime because of the pace of change.
“What we need in this area is the ability to set our own agenda. This is the first time we are going to grab that for ourselves so we can set the rules and parameters of our own agenda.”
The devolution of the adult education budget is scheduled to take place with effect from the academic year 2020-21.
The issue was also discussed at a meeting of the council’s corporate services committee, where head of economy and regeneration, Janice Rose, explained that the transfer of the adult education budget had been subject to separate orders in all of the devolution deals so far nationally, ‘probably because of the size of the budget’.
The committee’s vice-chairman, Coun Lynne Grimshaw, said she was concerned about reductions in the courses being offered at the likes of Northumberland College.
Ms Rose explained that this funding only represents about 10 per cent of what colleges get, but that the argument for devolving the budget is so that those issues can be tackled locally and in order to ‘make the money sweat as much as possible’.