Councils must have a role to play in the Government’s Skills and Post-16 Education Bill otherwise employment and skills support in local areas will become further fragmented, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned.
The proposed Bill is currently going through it’s Committee Stage, with the LGA calling on MPs to accept a Lords amendment to the Bill which would ensure that councils can work together with businesses and further education providers.
This, they argue, would help councils play a role in delivering a more coherent local skills offering to young people and adults, giving them the best chance of improving their skills and progressing into quality jobs.
As part of its efforts, the Government has recognised that mayoral combined authorities with devolved skills functions should be included in Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP) development, but the LGA is calling on the Government to extend this involvement to councils in other parts of the country as well.
Local authorities in England that do not have devolved skills powers should be written into the Bill, the LGA argues, so that they can play a key role working with businesses and further education providers to develop LSIPs which will help plan technical skills within a local area.
Councils play a vital role in local skills systems and hold unique skills, local labour market and economic development expertise that is vital to LSIPs. Their involvement will be crucial to bridge LSIPs with other local provisions to create a coordinated offer which works for and addressing the direct needs of local areas.
Analysis by the LGA shows that if councils and combined authorities were given the powers to plan, commission and oversee a joined-up system of employment support with their local partners it could result in 8,500 more people in work and provide £420m benefits to the economy each year in an average combined authority area.
Cllr Simon Henig, Deputy Chair of the LGA’s People and Places Board said: “Throughout the pandemic, local government have been trusted to co-ordinate employment, training and business support for their local area. Councils want to build on this as we help our communities recover.
“Councils know their communities best and it is vitally important that local authorities are given a greater role in this Bill so they can work in partnership to help support people to get into employment or training.
“At a time when the Government is rightly discussing devolving powers to local areas as part of the Levelling Up White Paper, it is crucial that this is not undermined by sidelining the expertise of local government in the delivery of skills and employment support.
“With adequate resourcing and powers and the ability to work in partnership with national government and others at an early stage, councils can help well-intended but disconnected national schemes keep people in work and businesses recruiting.”