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Steve Rotheram holds out 'hope' for further skills devolution

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The mayor of the Liverpool City Region CA has spoken of his “hope” for “good news” on further skills devolution in the Budget.

Steve Rotheram (Lab) spoke with LGC on the sidelines of last week’s MIPIM conference, where he called on the government to release the £2bn of apprenticeship levy it is currently “sitting on”.

“Business leaders are calling the apprenticeship levy a stealth tax, they say it’s not working as it is - this is one thing that I’m quite frustrated and angry about,” he said.

England’s six metro mayors last year came together and “put aside politics” to call on the government to devolve more fiscal responsibility, especially for skills and apprenticeships.

Mr Rotheram said at the conference: “I’m a bricklayer by trade and I look around and see a huge shortage of bricklayers and in other trades. We’ve identified the shortfall, so we’re now working with our colleges and our local enterprise partnership - every single one of them have said that they trust us with their money so that we can help to build the pipeline of skills needed.”

In describing devolution as a “journey”, Mr Rotheram said his region was “nowhere near where we need to get to”, while part of the solution lies in a “better influence over our schools”.

“We as metro mayors have no powers over what happens in the education system or in schools,” he said, before calling for education commissioners to report directly to metro mayors.

Speaking with LGC, Mr Rotheram said his combined authority could “still do stuff” to help boost training hubs locally should the Chancellor not announce any further devolution plans, adding that additional “money, power and resource” could make a “significant change to the direction of the city region”.

West of England CA mayor Tim Bowles (Con), speaking at MIPIM, said that the Department for Education is “improving” on skills and apprenticeship devolution, as can be seen by the decision to devolve adult education budgets next year.

Mr Bowles said: “A key part is that if we are going to have devolved government, then we are the best people to make those decisions [on funding] in our regions. Within the skills space especially, if it is to work we have to have those devolved powers put to us, but not in the terms of us constantly going back and asking for more.”

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