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 reported.
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, Rosie has raised this with both Mayors and the Department for Education.
Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor at Liverpool City Region has now made a U-turn and agreed to open negotiations with Further Education Colleges outside of Liverpool, and is facilitating a meeting with the Principal at West Lancs College. Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham is, however, yet to respond.
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.
“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!
“The Government need to step in before this gets out of hand. Places like West Lancashire that are trapped between two city regions will continually be left with the scraps. We need a system that truly considers rural areas near boundaries, one that allows and encourages equal access to services, rather than a postcode lottery dictated by protectionist Mayors.”