Treasury battle for training funds

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The Independent Online
GILLIAN Shephard, Secretary of State for Employment, was locked in a battle with the Treasury last night over funding a pounds 100m training package for redundant miners, writes Barrie Clement. Treasury ministers are insisting that a maximum amount should come out of her department's budget.

Today, the Secretary of State is due to meet the leaders of 14 employer-led Training and Enterprise Councils from areas affected by pit closures. She will tell them about a package of aid aimed exclusively at miners who lose their jobs.

It is possible that some money might come out of an 'underspend' on Employment Action, a community work programme that has proved unpopular with the unemployed, largely because they are only paid benefit plus pounds 10.

TEC leaders said yesterday that the 30,000 redundancies would be a tragedy for pit communities, but the colliers could be helped if the Government provided sufficient funds and allowed TECs flexibility in the way it was spent. It was also essential the money was additional to present budgets.

John Troth, chairman of the North East Wales TEC, said: 'We are calling for focused investment in local, effective solutions. If TECs take the lead with appropriate government support we can ensure that money is not wasted on training for training's sake . . .'

David Blunkett, Labour health spokesman, warned last night that local authorities would not be able to cope with the extra burden of the jobless and the training package. 'Many local authorities have been . . . trying to cope with the 25,000 jobs that have gone since the miners' strike. They cannot do any more. It doesn't matter what Heseltine announces,' he said.

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