Government ‘desperately slow to tackle looming funding crisis’ in further education

Further education colleges in England face a “looming crisis” in funding, warns a committee of MPs.

The report from the Public Accounts Committee, which scrutinises public spending, warns that the financial state of the further education sector remains “deeply worrying” and calls for more rapid intervention.

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Committee chairwoman Meg Hillier said: “The Government has been desperately slow off the mark to tackle a looming crisis in further education.”

She called for rapid intervention and stressed how crucial this sector was in giving people the skills and qualifications that could transform lives, and in turn bolster local economies.

“There is no doubt further education is under significant pressure and it is both frustrating and sad to think of the potential going unfulfilled, particularly in cases where earlier intervention could have prevented problems from escalating.”

However, Skills Minister Nick Boles said the government had protected funding for further education and colleges would be more financially resilient in future.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills says its total spending on further education will be £3.41bn by 2019-20, up by 36 per cent on current spending.

The committee has previously warned of the risk of “financial meltdown”, with forecasts that 70 colleges would be rated as “financially inadequate” by the end of this academic year.

The Labour MP added: “There must be greater clarity over who is responsible for taking action when colleges face financial difficulties, when that action should be taken, and a fuller understanding of its effects.

“There is a real danger of substantial further deterioration in the sector and government must act now to ensure FE is put on a stable financial footing.”

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