All-Party Parliamentary Groups haven’t had the best of press over the past month. The stories in the papers seem a world away from the work of the APPG on Local Growth, which brings MPs and peers together to look at how we can generate greater prosperity in our communities and bring some much needed balance to the economy.
Since Caroline Dinenage and I became Co-Chairmen of this group last autumn, we have been focusing on the barriers that hold back growth, and on the innovative work that is being done around the country to overcome those barriers. In particular, we have been looking at how the Government could decentralise powers and funding so that communities can be given the freedom and the resources they need to make a real difference to their local economies.
Over the past few months, we have been conducting an investigation into the country’s complicated system for helping people into employment and training. We were delighted to welcome the Skills Minister, Matt Hancock, to help us launch the investigation’s findings.
The report, sponsored by Working Links, was the culmination of three months of work by the officers and members of the group. We spent time speaking and listening to many organisations involved in our skills and employment support systems including LEPs and city regions, local authorities, skills and Work Programme providers, business bodies and experts.
Their feedback highlighted a widespread concern that the current system is too complex and convoluted in its funding structure and lacks the mechanisms to match the courses and support on offer to the requirements of the local economic area. If training is failing to provide the skills that local employers really need, then surely it is failing both those who invest time in training and taxpayers who have to cover the costs.
Submissions also identified a lack of coherence between skills provision and the increasingly important push to help move people off benefits and into work, with some confusion around the relationships between LEPs, local authorities and other organisations involved in the present system. However, we also saw some great work that was going on across the country and some incredibly committed individuals determined to make a real difference.
Some of the key recommendations from the report include:
- Increasing the proportion of funding that is paid to skills providers when students successfully get jobs, rather than just getting qualifications – giving them a clear incentive to work with LEPs and meet employers’ needs.
- Through Local Growth Deals, giving local areas more control over the Government’s Work Programme, where they can show that they can do things better.
- More pooling of resources between councils across LEPs to bring together data and intelligence, engage with businesses on their skills needs and make it easier for employers to access information on skills
In the Spending Review, the Government set out its plans to devolve funding, including skills funding, to local areas through ‘single pots’, as proposed by Lord Heseltine last year. This will open up new opportunities for those areas that have the courage to move beyond traditional government structures, bringing people and businesses together to deliver local solutions to local challenges.
We hope that our APPG’s report will help make England’s convoluted skills and employment support systems simpler, more joined up and more oriented towards local growth.
Our APPG can’t offer you any fancy trips to sunny climes but I would be delighted to welcome you to a local college in my constituency, where you will be able to see for yourself the difference that good vocational training can make. It might not make the front page of the Sunday Times, but high-quality training like this is literally life-changing.
To download a copy of the report go to http://appglocalgrowth.org