THE chair of a regional super-council has called on the government to reverse its plans to scrap its funding of a trade union scheme to help tens of thousands of individuals train and learn.

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of Bradford Council and chair of West Yorkshire Combined Authority, has called on the government to drop their proposal to end the Union Learning Fund, currently worth around £12 million.

The Government said it will instead redirect the funding towards further education colleges, but Coun Hinchcliffe said the decision would damage the workforce’s ability to retrain following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cllr Hinchcliffe is also chair of the Future-Ready Skills Commission - a national commission supported by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and made up of experts and leading thinkers from business, education, local government and think tanks.

The Commission recently issued a report, A Blueprint for a Future-Ready Skills System, following a two-year long in-depth examination of the UK skills system from post-16 education through to adult skills and career development. The report makes nine key policy recommendations that taken together offer a new approach to adult skills funding and careers advice.

£63m adult education budget could help tackle region's low skill levels

Cllr Hinchcliffe said: “Scrapping the Union Learning Fund, which has helped millions of people over the last 20 years, is a backward step at a time when we need more investment in skills and training than ever before.

“This announcement comes only weeks after the Prime Minister committed to launching the Lifetime Skills Guarantee which is supposed to help adults get the qualifications they need. The Union Learning Fund supports around 200,000 workers into learning and training every single year. It is clear this fund has a vital role to play in levelling up as we emerge from Covid-19.

“Our work with the Future-Ready Skills Commission called for a forward-looking skills system, based on the needs of people, businesses and local areas to build a resilient economy. Ending funding for Union Learning will be detrimental to these ambitions and is the wrong decision for our workers, industries and communities.”

The fund, also known as Unionlearn, is the learning and skills organisation of the TUC.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We have taken the decision not to continue to provide grant funding to Unionlearn in the next financial year. We will instead be investing the money to directly support Further Education Colleges, other training providers and our new £2.5 billion National Skills Fund to help more people learn new skills and prepare for the jobs of the future.

“The Prime Minister also recently announced a new ‘Lifetime Skills Guarantee’ offering adults without an A Level or equivalent qualification a fully-funded course.”