Two of Manchester’s Mayoral Candidates have called for the government’s Apprenticeship Levy to be replaced by a £5.1 billion devolved ‘Skills Levy’ to boost investment in ‘left behind’ areas.

Labour Candidate Andy Burnham and Conservative Sean Anstee are calling for changes after a report released this week by a thinktank found that London and the South East will benefit most from the government’s new apprenticeship levy.

The report by IPPR North found that those areas described by the Prime Minister as ‘left behind’ by globalisation will receive proportionately less investment for vital training opportunities.

The apprenticeship levy is intended to boost investment in training across the country, yet the government has admitted it has not carried out its own assessment of the regional impact of the levy.

Analysis of the annual business survey by IPPR shows that the levy will stimulate training most in London and the South East.These regions have 38 per cent of the UK’s large businesses which will be affected by the levy, but only 27 per cent of the population. London and the South East also have among the highest qualified populations in the country, with 50 and 40 per cent respectively of their populations educated to level 4 and beyond, compared with 30 per cent for example in the North East and Yorkshire and the Humber.

The levy will raise less money, and stimulate training less, in the areas that need it most – the regions hit hardest by de-industrialisation, which suffer from low levels of qualification, low productivity and low pay. These areas also recorded among the highest vote shares for Brexit. But with public funding for adult skills cut by 40 per cent since 2010/11 and employer investment in training in decline, there is no sign of the extra investment promised to increase economic opportunity in ‘left behind areas’.

The government’s apprenticeship levy will come into force from April. But the £2.6 billion it will raise in 2016/17 will fail to restore employer investment to the levels seen a decade ago, and as funding raised will be spent through employer vouchers it will not support local devolution.

IPPR is calling for a new ‘Skills Levy’ to be introduced to boost employer investment and to turbo-charge skills devolution. The Skills Levy would raise over £5 billion – twice the amount raised by the apprenticeship levy.

The proposals for greater skills devolution and investment has been backed a cross-party line up of mayoral candidates:

Andy Burnham, the Labour party’s candidate for Manchester Mayor said:

“Throughout the Mayoral campaign I’ve been going around the ten boroughs asking people about their priorities for Greater Manchester. One issue that is raised almost everywhere is the shortage of skills and how we equip people with the training they need to access secure and well-paid employment.

“We want Greater Manchester to play a leading part of the new industrial revolution but not based on a low-paid, low-skilled call centre economy where young people are expected to carry out work experience for little or no pay.

“I want to see a thriving Greater Manchester where everyone benefits from our economic success. The Skills Levy can help to achieve that by making sure the money goes to the areas where it’s needed most – those areas where people feel left behind and forgotten.”

Sean Anstee, the Conservative party’s candidate for Manchester Mayor said:

“If we want Greater Manchester to be a place where people are able to access good jobs, with good prospects of promotion and where businesses are able to be more productive and profitable, then we must take decisive, bold action to address our skills shortage and help people get ready to start and stay in work.

“The skills levy offers greater ability and flexibility to a newly elected Mayor to transform how our skills and employment system works for local people and could provide a much needed boost to making sure all parts of Greater Manchester are able to realise their potential and feel part of our shared success.”

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