BOTH Liverpool City Region (LCR) and Greater Manchester Combined Authorities (GMCA) have been refusing funding for their residents looking to study at West Lancashire College, Rosie Cooper MP has claimed.
Combined Authorities have a devolved Adult Education budget, allowing them to make funding choices such as only contracting with Colleges within their boundary. Sitting near the boundaries of both Greater Manchester and Liverpool Combined Authorities, West Lancashire College has found that neither Authority will allow their residents funding to attend the college.
Concerned that this is restricting the options available to residents of GMCA and LCR, and severely limiting the potential student pool for West Lancashire College, Ms Cooper has raised this with both Mayors and the Department for Education.
The West Lancashire MP also took this fight to Parliament, asking the Department for Education on the floor of The House what advice they can give to Local Authorities acting in this protectionist way with taxpayers funds, to the detriment of places like West Lancashire College.
Of the Department’s response, Rosie Cooper MP said: “It is unsurprising, yet still disappointing that the Government are unwilling to tackle this protectionist strategy by Combined Authorities. The Minster says authorities are encouraged to think of the outcomes for learners. Greater Manchester are knowingly and deliberately preventing their own residents from having a wider choice of place of education, just to keep the funding in GM. How is this in the interest of learners?!
“It is astounding that the Government can stand by and allow Education to be driven from the boundaries in the name of protectionism. I am pleased to hear Steve Rotheram has reversed this decision and I have urged Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham to do the same.
A spokesperson for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) said: “Greater Manchester’s Adult Education Budget (AEB) was devolved from central Government to the GMCA in August 2019, and every year supports tens of thousands of residents across our city-region to pursue education and training to develop the skills they need for life and work.
“We know that some of our residents may wish to pursue further education at a college which, due to their location or the nature of their study, takes them outside of Greater Manchester and to providers that do not have funding agreements in place with the GMCA.
“As a result, the GMCA has worked with the Association of Colleges (AoC) and further education providers to ensure that residents would still be able to access the education and training they need. The position developed by the GMCA was shared with the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), the AoC, and colleges to which these arrangements would apply, in September 2019.
“These institutions have been informed that any Greater Manchester resident wishing to study outside of Greater Manchester can contact the GMCA AEB Team with details of the courses on which they wish to enrol, and the Team which will consider funding applications on a case-by-case basis.
“The GMCA continues to monitor this situation and is committed to finding the best way to meet the training and skills needs of our residents. We remain in regular contact with colleges in neighbouring areas and with the AoC about these matters.”
“The devolution of responsibility to Combined Authorities will inevitably cause a funding dead zone, where authorities withdraw boundary services in favour of services that only their residents can use. Not only will this affect Education, but public transport and possibly health and social care!”