London training councils call for funding increase

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The Government yesterday clashed with senior business leaders in London who predicted the capital was in imminent danger of losing its status as an international commercial centre.

London's nine Training and Enterprise Councils called for a 30 per cent increase in state funding for training and business support so that London could help lead Britain out of recession.

Lord Stockton, chairman of the Central London TEC and a Conservative peer, said they were not 'a group of hungry Oliver Twists asking for more' but wanted to honour their function as part of a 'strategic alliance' with government. The capital's TECs are seeking pounds 68m on top of the pounds 200m agreed for their budget this year.

The London TECs had commissioned a report from the consultancy Coopers & Lybrand which Lord Stockton said confirmed three assumptions: that London TECs were under-funded in comparison to the rest of England and Wales; that training in London was more expensive than elsewhere; and that the complexity of the capital's labour market made taxation more difficult.

In a hard-hitting reply, Michael Forsyth, the Thatcherite Minister of State for Employment, expressed 'surprise' at the contents of the document and said it contained fundamental errors of fact. 'The report has enough holes in it to please a Swiss cheese maker,' he said.

Lord Stockton said the TECs were not attempting to attack the Government, but trying to inform the debate on the issue. However the critical nature of the document, which was endorsed by all nine of the London TECs, was seen as a departure from previous policy where the councils registered their opinions privately.

London TEC leaders said they were not necessarily calling for more money nationally, but a 'bigger slice of the cake'. The comment will not endear the capital's TECs to their counterparts elsewhere.

The report found that funding per head for youth training in London amounted to pounds 548, compared to pounds 1,104 on average for the rest of England and Wales. For adult training the comparison was pounds 792 for London and pounds 1,047 for the rest of England and Wales.

Figures for the support of enterprise showed that pounds 37.40 was spent per head for new businesses in London and pounds 48.90 for the rest of England and Wales. Established businesses received pounds 35.20 in the capital compared to pounds 52.80 in the rest of the country.