Page last updated at 13:35 GMT, Wednesday, 15 April 2009 14:35 UK

Funds return to further education

Protesters waving placards opposing cutbacks in further education, on April 1
A protest held in Cardiff Bay, on 1 April, at further education cutbacks

Further education (FE) colleges and sixth forms will receive another £8.93m from the Welsh Assembly Government.

It follows protests from unions and some Labour and Plaid assembly members who said January's budget settlement was unacceptable and put jobs at risk.

The assembly government said the announcement was in "direct response" to the economic downturn.

But opposition politicians said the timing was evidence of "chaos" in the education department.

'Difficult budget settlement'

The funding will support those colleges and local authorities most affected by the recent budget settlement, said the assembly government spokesperson.

Deputy minister for skills, John Griffiths, said: "A difficult budget settlement this year has meant having to make difficult choices and the assembly government has worked closely with the sector to provide as much assistance as possible in what continue to be challenging times."

fforwm, the body representing the 25 FE colleges in Wales, has welcomed the extra money, but said that some colleges and sixth forms will still be facing difficulties this year.

EXTRA FUNDING BY REGION
North Wales £1,065,974
Mid Wales £662,112
South west Wales £ 3,656,729
South east Wales £3,549,425
Total £8,934,240
Source: Welsh Assembly Government

Chief executive John Graystone said: "The Welsh Assembly Government has come a long way from its position in January, when it announced cuts in college funding and later insisted that there could be no change to college allocations."

But fforwm said that while the extra funding is likely to restore the £7m funding to the 14 colleges that received cuts in January's budget, these colleges will continue to face the costs of pay increases and other inflationary expenditure.

Conservative opposition leader Nick Bourne AM said ministers needed to say where the extra money was coming from.

"While any additional funding for education is welcome, it is only because of public anger against proposed cuts to the sector that ministers have been forced to find extra money they previously told us they did not have," he said.

Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Jenny Randerson AM, said it was the second year in a row in which the assembly government had to make rapid changes to the budget due to a "complete failure" in planning.

"The recession was well underway when the budget was set, so they can't now claim it is in response to something that was already happening," said Mrs Randerson.

She added: "This money is too little too late to prevent large numbers of job cuts and the slashing of courses."



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