Devolution to give powers to businesses

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who was in Sheffield today to confirm the city devoloution deal.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who was in Sheffield today to confirm the city devoloution deal.
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Nick Clegg’s office has revealed more detail of the power over skills and business support that will be devolved to Sheffield City Region – including big chunks of further education provision and ‘a fully integrated support service to local businesses that reflects local needs and priorities’.

The deal announced last week means the region will take joint control over most parts of the adult skills system in a joint partnership with the Skills Funding Agency.

It covers the Adult Skills Budget and the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers, which make up a majority of adult skills funding.

The region also gets an important role in helping more businesses take on apprenticeships, with a share of the £85m Apprenticeship Grant for Employers.

It is currently £1,500 per apprentice for 16 – to 24-year-old apprentices. From January 15, this will be available only to employers with fewer than 50 employees.

There will also be a new employer-driven system for funding from 2017 – the £22m Skills Bank.

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: “The intention of the proposal is to ensure Sheffield City Region has the skills training and provision needed to respond to local economic priorities and labour market needs.

“It will work closely with BIS, DfE, DWP and the funding agencies to ensure relevant, quality provision is available to learners in order to deliver on these goals.

“The proposals require Sheffield City Region to work closely with BIS, DfE and the funding agencies to reshape and restructure further education provision within the area.

“Proposals for any changes will be put to Ministers, the Local Enterprise Partnership and the combined authority and decisions will be made on the basis of the evidence provided.”

Sheffield City Region will also have responsibility for securing ‘integrated business support services’ and will be able to spend Growth Accelerator, Manufacturing Advice Service and UKTI Export Advice budget as it sees fit.

The spokeswoman added: “Devolution along these lines builds on work already undertaken by national and local government to improve business support, for example the introduction of growth hubs.

“This move commits government to taking further steps to devolve responsibility for business support to Sheffield City Region, providing them with the flexibility to provide a fully integrated service to local businesses that reflects local needs and priorities.

“To keep things simple for businesses and ensure they benefit from such things as the UKTI global network Sheffield City Region will maintain strong links with national programmes, and operate within an agreed national framework while working on devolution arrangements for the longer term.”

“The Government and Sheffield City Region will work together to deliver additional flexibility.”

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