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LIB DEM CHALLENGER CALLS FOR ANSWERS ON LSC SIXTH FORM CASH CRISIS

April 24, 2009 12:01 AM

A senior Newcastle Liberal Democrat has called for a probe into Learning and Skills Council budgets for 16-19 year old education in the city.

Greg Stone, Lib Dem Parliamentary spokesman for Newcastle East, made the call following reports that the LSC is facing a deficit of £200 million nationally for funding of sixth form education.

Up to 50,000 sixth form places are believed to be in jeopardy nationally due to the funding shortfall.

Greg Stone has raised concerns with education bosses in Newcastle to question what the impact will be in the city.

He said: "I am aware that the LEA has concerns about the potential funding shortfall caused by the LSC's mishandling of further education funding.

"As 16-19 year old education is being transferred to councils, there is a serious risk that they will not be given sufficient funding to meet levels of demand, and this could result in sixth form places being cut.

"This is a very serious concern and I think it is completely unacceptable that the Government's Young People's Learning Agency may require cuts in places and potentially redundancies for teachers at a time when demand for 16-19 year old education and training is on the increase.

"Newcastle LEA has been recognised by the Government as one of the fastest improving in the country, but instead of being rewarded, there is a risk we will face cuts caused by Labour's mishandling of funds."

The Lib Dem spokesman is calling for the Commons Public Accounts Committee to investigate the Learning and Skills Council after a litany of concerns over its handling of a number of Government projects, including long delays to recipients of education maintenance allowances caused by maladministration.

The Building Colleges for the Future programme has also been suspended due to a funding crisis, which has the potential to affect construction of a new sixth form centre for Newcastle College.

Greg Stone added: "Scarcely a week goes by without new concerns about LSC funding and I am concerned that the organisation is unfit for purpose.

"A number of its major programmes are in crisis, and I think its management needs to be subject to very thorough scrutiny.

"The Government needs to take urgent action to restore confidence in the organisation."